UNIMAK Scientists Help Identify the Source of the Latest Case of Ebola

lab3UNIMAK Scientists Raoul Emeric and Umaru Jah have provided essential genetic sequencing support to allow the characterisation of the recently identified Ebola case in Sierra Leone.

The team of local scientists employed by UNIMAK, have been able to obtain the Ebola virus sequence in less than 48 hours from the time the sample arrived at the recently established UNIMAK Infectious Disease Research Laboratory.

lab1The team of two were trained by scientists from the University of Cambridge to operate the ThermoScientific IonTorrent sequencer and the Ebola virus Ampliseq sequencing workflow.

The infectious disease research laboratory was recently established in collaboration with scientists from the University of Cambridge and supported by funding from the Wellcome Trust, as part of an effort to build capacity in the area of infectious disease research and surveillance.


ian goodfellowProfessor Ian Goodfellow, one of the international scientists providing support said:
“This is a fantastic achievement. A turnaround of 48 hours is extremely difficult to achieve, anywhere in the world. The ability of local scientists to undertake work of this nature is critical for the prevention and control of any such future outbreaks.”

The genetic sequence obtained has now been provided to lab2international scientists working with the outbreak response and the MOHS to enable potential sources of the new case to be identified. The conclusions of this will be released in due course via official channels.

Read more about this world class Infectious Disesases Research Laboratory ………….

New UNIMAK Laboratory will be World-Class Research and Teaching Facility

lab2The University of Makeni (UNIMAK) Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory was established as a collaboration between the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone, and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. The project was facilitated by funding from the Wellcome Trust to enable rapid sequencing of Ebola virus genomes during the recent Ebola virus disease epidemic in Sierra Leone. During the epidemic, the laboratory was established at the Mateneh Ebola Treatment Centre, but was relocated to UNIMAK near the end of the epidemic. The laboratory now forms an integral part of the Makeni Biomedical and Biotechnology Research Platform, which was developed following the recent Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa.

lab1The extent of the outbreak and the response illustrated the limited capacity of Sierra Leone to respond to such an emergency without significant external investment and involvement of international NGOs. The research centre is designed to function as both a research and training platform, and is intended as a centre for Sierra Leone to continue building on recent advances in capacity and knowledge, to provide trained scientists and technicians who can rapidly respond should such a crisis emerge, and to provide a world-class research facility for both national and international researchers.

lab4Within the UNIMAK laboratory, research scientists and students are trained in the latest research and laboratory techniques, as well providing a platform for extensive research projects throughout Sierra Leone. The laboratory contains state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, including the Ion Torrent ® PGM and Ion Chef® Next Generation Sequencing platform (Thermo Scientific), multiple real-time (Roche, Thermo Scientific) and standard PCR machines, biological safety hoods (level 1 and 2), and facilities for ELISA experiments. Equipment comes from a range of sources, including funding from Universities of Cambridge and Makeni, as well as generous donations from local and international NGOs. In collaboration with the Holy Spirit Molecular Biology and Immunology laboratory, researchers can also access to flow cytometry and biological safety level 3 facilities.

lab3The UNIMAK laboratory currently forms an integral part of the Ebola Outbreak Sequencing Service, in collaboration with government and non-governmental authorities, providing critical sequencing and phylogenetic information on new cases of infection, assisting with tracing the source of new infections. Current projects are focused on investigating diseases beyond Ebola, including rare and imported pathogens that may mimic the symptoms of Ebola Virus infection. In addition, more common infections are being studied at the centre, with the aim of monitoring the impact of pathogens on the community in Sierra Leone.

In the medium term, the Centre will form a part of the newly established University of Makeni Public Health Faculty. The faculty will offer Diplomas and Bachelors Degrees in Public Health, Epidemiology, Laboratory Skills and Pharmacology. The long-term goal of the project is to provide the University of Makeni, and Sierra Leone more broadly, with a world-class research and teaching facility, with local expertise that can support the prevention or containment of future disease outbreaks.

Read more about the background to this story here

UNIMAK presents paper at Africa Research Summit

Dr. Raoul Emeric Guetiya Wadoum, UNIMAK‘s Head of Department for Public Health and Allied Sciences, received an award for a paper presented at the UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (UNESCO-MARS) held on 19th/20th October in Geneva, Switzerland.

The conference was planned as an opportunity for all those engaged and interested in health and life science research in Africa to learn about the full spectrum of ground-breaking scientific research currently underway, and prepare for the road ahead in Africa’s development as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.

Dr. Raoul’s paper concluded: “Researchers across the world should come together to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and integrate patients association in defining new policies . Such successful integration has been achieved with HIV/AIDS patients association and actually transfers successfully to Ebola survivors association in Makeni, Sierra Leone.”

Follow this link for more details of the paper ….

UNIMAK Meeting the Educational Special Needs of Children with Disability

Vice-Chancellor Fr Joe Turay addressing the Opening Session of the Training

Vice-Chancellor Fr Joe Turay addressing the Opening Session of the Training

The Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education (ISNE) UNIMAK was happy to welcome 35 Participants to a training for mainstream teachers on Inclusive Special Needs Education. The training took place from the 21st to 31st July 2015. This was to give training to the mainstream teacher’s supported by Plan Sierra Leone in The Bombali District, Northern Province. It was sponsored by Plan International Sierra Leone and funded by Irish Aid.

Mr. Frank Velthuizen from Plan International Ireland and the Participants

Mr. Frank Velthuizen from Plan International Ireland

This training was held at the University of Makeni, being the only University in Sierra Leone to offer Special Education Needs Training since 2005. Last year the launching of the Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education (ISNE) was honored by the presence of the Minister of Education’s own representative and the representative of the Minister of Social Welfare.

This occasion brought about appreciation of UNIMAK’s initiative in supporting the future education of Special Needs Teachers for the many children with disability in Sierra Leone.

Practical exercises in the training

Practical exercises in the training

The Institute team members who implemented The Plan International Sierra Leone training were Sr. Mary Sweeney, Mrs. Umu Turay, Mr. Andrew Dumbuya, Mr. Samuel Sesay, Mr. Siddie Kanu and Mr. Albert Sandy. This was a two weeks intensive training preparing teachers for the Inclusive Education Policy that the Government of Sierra Leone is in the process of enacting.

UNIMAK Staff and Plan International Ireland

UNIMAK Staff and Plan International Ireland

Plan International’s request for this training was timely and having the status of a university give an added quality to their certificate. Teachers took pride in being the first mainstream teachers to have had a university stamped certificate of quality. They felt ready and able to support the new Government policy for inclusive education, about to be inaugurated in Sierra Leone. The participants were very enthusiastic and enjoyed the interactive methods used. They could experience and analyze cultural beliefs and the challenges children with disability face in life and in learning. The group was a joy to work with.
Fatmata a participant was interviewed on local radio and one of our UNIMAK B. Ed students came to express his amazement at Fatmata’s knowledge and ability to name all types on the whole spectrum of disability. He found it amazing that only after two weeks training she had so much knowledge.

Plan International staff, UNIMAK staff and Participants

Plan International staff, UNIMAK staff and Participants

In May, Dr. Mary Hodges Director of HKI felt that Hannah Pessima was ready to expand her experience working with the disabled as Program Officer for five years. The Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education were looking for an experienced Coordinator for ISNE. Hannah Pessima was approached to take up the challenge of coordinating, managing the Programs and activities of ISNE. She is now actively involved with all the administrative affairs of The Institution. Hannah is now pursuing the Blind and Low Vision Certificate course. Her five years’ experience working with HKI was a great help during the training and made for easy communication with Plan Coordinator Mr. Kellie. Mr. Frank Velthuizen who came from Plan International Ireland, an expert in Inclusive Education was of great support and his skills were greatly appreciated.

Certification of the Training

Certification of the Training

We look forward to UNIMAK being able to offer training for all categories of disabilities. We hope that experts in SNE will volunteer to come and support and build up the capacity for teachers of children with learning disability. Anyone with this expertise and the possibility of coming to give some input to students, teachers, facilitators and lecturers of the Institute would be truly welcome.