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Stellenbosch University-Led Consortium Wins €5M EU Grant for Epidemic Research in Africa

NEW YORK — Stellenbosch University said on Wednesday that it is leading a research consortium that has been awarded €5 million ($5.3 million) from the EU Horizon Europe program to use genomics to combat epidemics in Africa.

The funding will support a project called Genomic Surveillance to Control Pathogen Infections in Africa, or GenPath Africa. In addition to Stellenbosch University, program collaborators include the National Institute of Health of Mozambique, the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, the Global Health Institute at the University of Antwerp, and German project management firm Linq Management.

According to Stellenbosch University, GenPath Africa aims to support the use of genomics to address health issues including as HIV-1, tuberculosis, and antimicrobial resistance, along with epidemics impacted by climate change such as Rift Valley Fever, in South Africa, Kenya, and Mozambique. It also intends to conduct early warning testing in wastewater and animal surveillance to detect emerging pathogens in the regions.

"Despite the rapid expansion of genomic sequencing capacity and increased genomic surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the global response to SARS-CoV-2 illuminated the barriers that prevent the world from having readily available, reliable, and comprehensive genomic data to aid public health decision-making," Tulio de Oliveira, director of Stellenbosch University's Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation, said in a statement. "We need to plan for future pandemics by expanding genomic surveillance to other pathogens in Africa to be able to quickly detect new emergent epidemics. The GenPath Africa team is well-placed to apply genomic epidemiology to … current and emerging epidemics in southern and eastern Africa."

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