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Advanced Bioinformatics: an opportunity to explore cutting-edge genomic techniques

In collaboration with the Wellcome Sanger Institute and funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM recently concluded an advanced course on Bioinformatics.

Participants at the Advance Bioinformatics Course

The course developed for the Global Pneumococcal Sequencing (GPS) and JUNO projects, brought together 26 participants from public health and academic institutions across 21 African countries, interested in carrying out Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and the analysis of bacterial genomes (Streptococcus pneumoniae and/or Streptococcus agalactiae).

The five-day course provided participants with practical experience in bioinformatics analysis, focusing on NGS data quality control, assembly, reference mapping, in silico isolate characterisation, and downstream analyses such as phylogenetic inference, among others.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Dr. Davis Nwakanma, Chief Operations Officer at the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, noted that “hosting this course is a significant step in the Unit’s strategy for strengthening our position as a regional hub for high-tech Genomics research.”

He commended the organising team and highlighted that, in addition to providing cutting-edge infrastructure for health research, the Unit is keen to foster collaborations with world renowned centres of excellence such as the Wellcome Sanger Institute, towards advancing Genomics research in the West African subregion.

According to Dr. Jolynne Mokaya, Senior Bioinformatician & Bioinformatics Training Lead – Pathogen Genomics at Wellcome Sanger Institute, the training equipped participants with the “knowledge and practical skills in analysing genomic data to generate actionable information to inform public health policy.”

Dr. Mokaya highlighted that the course “is a key step in advancing genomic surveillance of important bacterial pathogens to improve infectious disease prevention in Africa.” Thus, participants have built new connections which will foster collaborative research efforts within the African continent.   

“Participants were taken through lectures and hands-on demonstrations on the potential applications of NGS techniques in academic research and public health settings, while also exploring the limitations of these techniques” she added.

The course is part of efforts to realise a significant objective of the GPS and JUNO projects to enhance the capacity of project collaborators in generating and analysing in-country genomic data.

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