Sunday 31 May 2020 ,
Latest News
Coronavirus: Bangladesh records 1764 new cases in a day; 28 more die | Coronavirus: Bangladesh records 1764 new cases in a day; 28 more die | Libya killings : Traffickers demanded 12,000 USD as ransom, says Rakibul’s family | Covid-19 pandemic: IMF approves US$ 732 million for Bangladesh | 30th span of Padma Bridge installed; 4.5 km now visible | Lifting restrictions to worsen coronavirus situation in Bangladesh: Health experts | UN chief greets PM Hasina on Int'l Day of UN Peacekeepers | Libya gun attack: 23 Bangladeshis identified | Global coronavirus cases near 6 million | Trump cuts ties with WHO | Total coronavirus cases in Bangladesh rises to 42,844; Death toll jumps to 582 | Coronavirus Hotline Numbers: 01944333222, 16263, 333; website: www.corona.gov.bd |
30 March, 2020 00:00 00 AM

Print

Africa needs its biotech space

Zain Verjee
Africa needs its biotech space

“The pandemic is accelerating. It took 67 days from the beginning of the outbreak in China in December 2019 for the virus to infect the first 100,000 people worldwide. In comparison, it took 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, World Health Organisation

The coronavirus pandemic is leaving a trail of devastation across the world, with the continents of Asia, Australia, Europe and North America particularly affected. And now Africa is increasingly finding itself in the cross-hairs of Covid-19.
As of now, a handful of countries in the "Mother Continent" have ordered total lockdowns, such as Rwanda and South Africa, while others are closely monitoring the situation within their borders, having announced partial measures, including travel bans, quarantine orders and the promotion of social distancing.
There are a number of very serious concerns if the virus spreads across a landmass that is home to more than 1.3 billion people. These include dense population clusters, weak public health infrastructure, deeply ingrained social and cultural norms, issues of governance and a lack of funds.
Yet, in the field of biotechnology, there appears to be a sliver of hope that the continent – particularly the eastern region – could actually be better-positioned to cope with the pandemic than prophesied by the doomsayers. It is a sector that began shaping up at the turn of the 21st century, and which, two decades later, has become of fundamental importance. After all, we live in a time of ecological armageddon and frightening pandemics, sparked by unheard of viruses and widening socio-economic disparities.
Indeed, the biotech industry is leading the way in taking on these challenges. On the front lines are companies such as Africa Biosystems, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Roche and Qiagen, which are assisting with testing and research for the Covid-19 pandemic.
But even before reaching their current status as "front-liners" in battling the spread of the coronavirus, these entities have been chalking up several milestones. For instance, they have revolutionised how DNA technology is applied in various fields across Africa today.
Health care is a case in point, with the technology being used to identify and treat infectious diseases besides benefiting research into HIV, tuberculosis, malaria – and now Covid-19. It is also helping many African nations cope with the rise of non-communicable diseases, including cancer, hypertension, diabetes and renal disease. Life science technology is being used to test for anti-microbial resistance, which improves patient management. In addition, technology delivered to fertility clinics has been something of a boon for those set back by reproductive health challenges.
To be sure, the benefits are not restricted to health care alone.
DNA forensic applications have helped security forces in combating terrorism and other crimes. State-of-the-art DNA extraction and analysis systems have helped to identify and convict terrorists and criminals. In fact, one area where DNA science has made a major impact is in producing indisputable evidence used by prosecutors in court to deliver justice in rape cases. It is notable that even conflict-ridden Somaliland has recently acquired technologies to identify and convict rapists, joining the rest of the region’s biotechnology push. In the field of environment and wildlife conservation, too, DNA technology has helped identify poachers who leave genetic identifiers at scenes of crime but, more important, help trace gem trophies to countries of origin at advanced application. This has greatly improved rates of convictions of poachers and curbed the illegal game trade.
East Africa, like much of the continent, is primarily dependent on an agricultural economy. The new technology has helped improve food security, specifically in crop sciences and animal health. DNA technologies are useful in trait selection, such as milk production, beef content and disease resistance. Genome-sequencing is helping plant breeders re-establish and enrich traditional food crops with boosted nutritional values such as the indigenous cassava or baobab tree.
It is increasingly apparent that these efforts, successful as they have been and continue to be, are now likely to be perceived as mere tutorials as these companies now take on the Kilimanjaro-size challenge of “testing, testing, testing” – in the words of Ghebreyesus – to contain Covid-19.
To do this effectively, they need the removal of certain barriers and hurdles.
Cost is one. Institutions wanting to adopt this biotechnology in East Africa have had to spend as much as five times more than their counterparts in the developed world.

The National
This is because of taxes and duties, high costs of clearance and transportation, as well as constant changes to import regulations, which create delays in the supply chain.

 

Comments

Poll
Today's Question »
State minister for power Nasrul Hamid yesterday said everyone to have access to electricity by June. Do you think the feat achievable by the timeframe?
 Yes
 No
 No Comment
Yes 47.3%
No 48.7%
No Comment 4.1%
Most Viewed
E-Paper
More Editorial stories
Expatriates' problems need early solution Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday said a handful of countries want to send undocumented Bangladeshis back home. According to a report of this newspaper yesterday, the minister issued the statement…

Copyright © All right reserved.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Disclaimer & Privacy Policy
....................................................
About Us
....................................................
Contact Us
....................................................
Advertisement
....................................................
Subscription

Powered by : Frog Hosting