30 January 2019

Liberia Gets Virus Specimen Testing Lab for Rapid Diagnostic Response

Fendall — Four units of rapid deployable virus specimen laboratory have been dedicated at the University of Liberia Fendall Campus.

The "21st century virus specimen lab" is government owned but was received by the administration of the University of Liberia as a donation from the Paul Allen Foundation through the Baylor College of Medicine.

The lab is expected to serve as a key instrument in diagnosing critical health related cases in Liberia, like the Ebola virus.

University of Liberia Dean of the Tubman J.R. Faulkner College of Science and Technology, Dr. Peter Humphrey told FrontPageAfrica that the "lack of a well-sophisticated diagnostic lab" in Liberia posed a major setback to the country health system during the Ebola crisis, due to the fact that specimens had to be taken out of Liberia for testing, which he said created some delay for them.

However, Dr. Humphrey stated that the rapidly deployable diagnostic lab would now respond swiftly to critical health related cases in the country.

"This is a mobile lab; during the Ebola period, we had issue with diagnosing cases. At the very early stage, we had to take sample out of the country," Dr. Humphrey said.

"We are not hoping that there will be an outbreak, but this unit is designed that in the case of another outbreak, we can be able to take it to the site and that will reduce the time we take to diagnose and have results."

Though it is government owned, Humphrey noted that the diagnostic laboratory units would be used by the University of Liberia for research purposes in the interim to help boost the research profile of the university.

Faculty and students at the university are said to begin operation of the lab as a means of exposing students to the use of modern laboratory in carrying out research.

Dr. Humphrey believes the lab will go a long way in helping to build the research capacity of students in the sciences at the University of Liberia.

During the dedication, the Assistant Director of Technical Development at Baylor Global Health Dr. Elena Petrova said bringing the lab to Liberia took a lot of efforts, but xpressed delight that it was setup correctly for testing.

She stressed that the facility will not solve diagnostic problem faced by the county, but wants those who will be operating the lab to be qualify and highly skilled.

Receiving the lab on behalf of the UL Family and government, UL President Dr. Ophelia Anez Weeks noted that the lab project amounts to cooperation amongst staffs at the university.

"I can appreciate this, and as a researcher for over 30 years, to have this in a built facility could take us a long time because we will have to renovate the place and do other things, so this is huge," Dr. Weeks said.

Dr. Weeks, however, expressed hope that those responsible for operating the lab would begin proposal writing that will help support the operation of the lab.

At the same time, University of Liberia President Academic Affairs described the dedication of the lab as a significant move that goes in line with the institution 100 commencement expected to take place December.

Dr. Allen said the lab is a centennial achievement that will be formally launched in March 2019.

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