Professor Akin Abayomi
Title of Presentation
1 – Operationalizing retrospective biobanking of dangerous Ebola samples in a post outbreak scenario – A Sierra Leone experience. An important synergy between Public Health and Security Agencies “Additional considerations when biobanking during public crises- what the Ebola outbreak taught us”.
2 – Additional considerations when biobanking during public health crises ‐ what the Ebola outbreak taught us. “Biosecurity-how biobanking contributes to biothreat reduction”
Date and Place
Session: Plenary P1
Professor Akin Abayomi is the Chief Pathologist and Head of the Division of Haematology at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa (www.sun.ac.za/haema). He studied at the Royal Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital at the University of London where he attained his first graduate degree in Medicine. He went on to specialize in Internal Medicine and Haematology, obtaining fellowships from the Royal College of Medicine and the Royal College of Pathologists of the United Kingdom as well as the College of Medicine of South Africa. Professor Abayomi has worked in several countries around the world in both Internal Medicine and Haematology. His focus has mainly been on the complications of HIV and the development of laboratory and clinical capacity to rise to the challenge of the HIV epidemic in the developing world and Africa. He is the PI to the Tygerberg Lymphomas Study Group and the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (www.getafrica.org) and a member of the H3Africa and B3Africa consortia. Akin Abayomi is the Director of the NHLS Stellenbosch Cape Town Biobank. He is also interested in the impact of climate change on health and the footprint of humanity on ecological integrity and human-wildlife interaction.
In the aftermath of the 2014-15 West African Ebola outbreak, Ebola-related samples were located across the sub-region, in labs lacking the infrastructure to keep them from accidental or malicious discharge. Ebola virus, a Category A pathogen, must be stored and processed ideally in a biosafety 4 biocontainment facility. This created a biosecurity situation of grave concern.
As the emergency waned, resources were reprioritized. Samples were abandoned as labs closed or removed sometimes without proper transfer agreements.
Retrospective biobanking after an outbreak of this magnitude had never been undertaken. It requires the reconstitution of all sample data, including demographic, clinical, diagnostic, storage, pre-analytic and research information which would help us evaluate the quality and quantity of samples; reuniting every sample with its donor data and other sibling samples.
This was just the data rescue aspect of the project.
For sample rescue, the different stakeholders had to be sensitized and upskilled. Samples had to be relocated to secure facilities under control of the Ministry of Health and the Office of National Security where they would be held till the appropriate biocontainment facility has been established.
The project was split into three phases: Pilot, Mobilization and Implementation.
The result has been an indigenously designed and programmed database that assigns pedigree to samples, tracks quantities used and current storage locations. With greater awareness of biosecurity countrywide, there is now a draft biosecurity and biobanking policy being discussed for ratification and an organized schedule for the relocation of samples under the Office of National Security.
The H3Africa and B3Africa Initiatives were launched with funding for several research projects, bioinformatics networks, the development of central biorepository networks and the necessary legal and ethical frameworks across the continent. Some of the obstacles that make development of centralized biobanks and harmonizing research across Africa and its international partners an uphill task include governance, sustainability, logistics of sample transportation across borders and national uptake and ownership.
H3Africa and B3Africa working groups were established to develop and implement indigenous governance structures for ethics, data and sample security, bioinformatics, advocacy and African genomic diversity. Other key considerations are sustainability, Open Source LIMS, Room Temperature Storage, Cell line creation including iPSC, Quality Management systems and Biosecurity. The Ebola outbreak, and the challenges harnessing prompt international response, make it imperative for the African continent to develop capacity to respond to its health and environmental crises. Strengthening biosafety containment in the region is a major challenge.
The success of projects like H3Africa and B3Africa depend on the willingness of the community to participate in the research, as well as the implementation of good governance structures to facilitate appropriate community engagement (CE), to guarantee the protection of the participants and to shape governance policy. CE is of particular importance in biosecurity, human genomic research and dual-use science. Biomedical research ethics must address the interests of individual volunteers and communities in view of the extended consequences of genomic research and our increasing ability to manipulate genetic organisms and demarcate the genetic variations of health risks.