The Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) and Ginkgo Bioworks, a US-based biotech firm that is building the leading platform for cell programming and biosecurity, have announced a one-year pathogen monitoring program at Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport (KGL) to identify new and emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2.
Through this program, RBC will collaborate with Ginkgo’s biosecurity and public health unit, Concentric by Ginkgo, to monitor wastewater samples from arriving aircraft and nasal swab samples, collected on a voluntary, anonymous basis from arriving international travelers, for SARS-CoV-2.
The program aims to provide critical public health insights to help inform mitigation strategies in Rwanda and globally and it is expected to establish a new node in a global early warning network for emerging variants to support timely and targeted public health response.
RBC and the biotech company will work together to establish Kigali as a new node in a global network of pathogen monitoring infrastructure, complementing the insights generated from Concentric’s existing travel biosecurity programs at several major international airports in the U.S. The program builds on the previously announced MOU to develop and implement biosecurity capabilities in Rwanda.
Prof Claude Muvunyi, the Director General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre affirmed:
“As we continue to feel the impacts of emerging variants and pathogens, we recognize the need to create a sustainable public health and biosecurity infrastructure in Rwanda and internationally. We are thrilled to launch this program at Kigali International Airport in partnership with Ginkgo to enhance our biosecurity capabilities.”
Rwanda Biomedical Center is the national health implementation agency, established in 2011 to improve the health of the Rwandan population by providing high quality, affordable and sustainable health care services.
The government agency is expected to contribute on-the-ground operational support for sample collection, testing, and sequencing whereas Ginkgo will support the end-to-end collection and analysis workflow with materials, training and logistical support, digital platform and data reporting, as well as bioinformatics and decision support services.
“Mitigating the risk of biological threats, including emerging viral variants, remains a global imperative that necessitates a robust early warning system,” stated Matt McKnight, General Manager, Biosecurity at Ginkgo Bioworks. “This pathogen monitoring program at Kigali International Airport will act like a public health radar, providing leaders with near-real-time data to inform targeted response strategies.