ENGLAND / TRINIDAD – The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has provided new essential genomic sequencing equipment to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
This is a significant stride towards strengthening global genomic surveillance to track new variants and pathogens of pandemic and epidemic potential.
The equipment will help strengthen genomic surveillance at CARPHA’s medical microbiology laboratory in Trinidad by automating the process of preparing up to 384 genetic samples for sequencing all at once. While the current focus is on COVID-19, the capabilities can be applied to address any other significant public health threats in the Caribbean region.
This partnership, facilitated through the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) led by UKHSA, underscores UKHSA’s ongoing commitment to improving global health security and pandemic preparedness.
Two advanced liquid handling instruments have been sent to Trinidad, along with mosquito® HV genomics and dragonfly® discovery machines from SPT Labtech. This equipment is expected to play a pivotal role in processing SARS-CoV-2 samples and other priority pathogens in a consistent and automated way, increasing the robustness of the diagnostic and sequencing aid that CARPHA provides to its member states. This will contribute to faster reporting and the timely sharing of data on pathogens of public health concern with the global community.
Dr Leena Inamdar, consultant in global health security and head of NVAP programme at UKHSA, said:
“NVAP is delivering hands-on assistance, training, and epidemiology support to partners worldwide.
“This equipment will enable CARPHA to strengthen regional genomic sequencing capacity and capability by detecting and sequencing variants faster, and speed is vital for rapid public health response during emergencies.
“We look forward to collaborating with CARPHA over the coming months to support their regional health security ambitions.”
Dr Joy St John, executive director of CARPHA, said:
“UKHSA has been incredibly supportive of our work with our member states. The acquisition of this equipment marks another milestone in CARPHA’s mission to strengthen its systems to better detect and respond to emerging diseases in the Caribbean region.
“The equipment adds to CARPHA’s cutting-edge laboratory technology, significantly strengthening CARPHA’s genomic sequencing capabilities, and laboratory services we provide to our member states.”
NVAP currently supports 18 countries and six regional partners across the globe. This includes genomic sequencing, bioinformatic assessment, variant characterisation, risk evaluation, and immunological testing of detected variants of concern.
In addition to the bilateral and regional partnerships, NVAP also collaborates with global partners such as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ten-year global genomic surveillance strategy, and the International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN), which has a collaborative initiative aimed at accelerating and maintaining advancements in genomics to enhance health security.