Modern science lab opens in Kenya

January 14, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – Africa’s Scientists and researchers can now access latest equipment and technologies related to science at a new world-class research facility in Nairobi.

The facility which is based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will afford Africa’s scientists an opportunity to venture into new research areas without prohibitive costs and regulations to conduct the same research overseas.

Technology Manager Appolinaire Djikeng said on Thursday that the facility which was developed at a cost of Sh1.5 billion ($21 million) would be shared by scientists in East and Central Africa and used in accelerating livestock and crop research.

“Specifically what we are looking at are the genetic determinants to help us select breeds that can resist many diseases and also provide us with high yield of that particular crop,” he said.

A scientist at the Institution, Roger Pelle, said research was already ongoing into finding a vaccine for East Coast Fever, (ECF) a dreaded animal disease that was responsible for killing over a million cows in the region annually.

“We have been able to know the exact number of genes in the parasite that causes the disease. From there we have been able to identify ten candidate genes that we can use in the laboratory and mimic the protection by taking part of the parasite, put it in the cells that represent the cattle and bring the immune component which will kill those cells,” Mr Pelle said.

“We have success in the laboratory not higher than 30 percent protection,” he added.

Mr Pelle said research for the disease vaccine has been ongoing for 20 years.

BecA, as the facility is known is the first hub of the Africa Biosciences Initiative (ABI) to become fully functional, having been developed through a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Its establishment entailed refurbishing, expanding and equipping laboratories at ILRI to accommodate a wide range of cutting-edge technologies to improve agriculture.

The facility was also equipped with one of Africa’s few advanced bio-safety level III labs, with stringent safety standards for persons working there, as well as ensuring that the surrounding environment was not in any way affected.

ILRI Director-General Dr Carlos Sere said: “The BecA Hub has become a vibrant focal point and facilitator for science and technology issues, bringing the African scientific community and international partners together as they address African agricultural constraints of significance.”


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