IDEA project trains medical staff in Advanced Molecular Diagnostics of SARS CoV-2 and Variant Identification using Oxford Nanopore Sequencing Technique
The IDEA (Identification of Emerging Agents) project was established in collaboration with Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin, Germany, Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Colombo and North Colombo Teaching Hospital (NCTH), Ragama, in 2017. This project was initiated to strengthen the capacity of rapid and reliable identification and characterization of infectious diseases. Currently, the research arm of the IDEA project is funding for two main projects in Sri Lanka, aiming to identify novel viral infections in humans and wildlife. The post-graduate students were provided with advanced training in molecular diagnostics at RKI, Germany, and in the European mobile laboratories for field-based diagnostics for highly infectious diseases. Over the years, several workshops were conducted by the training arm of the IDEA project for medical officers and medical laboratory technologists (MLTs) in viral disease diagnostics using RT-PCR.
With the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, this project has become a valuable resource for the country, providing support for initiating diagnostic labs and training laboratory personnel for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. Furthermore, the project supported NCTH to start diagnosis to be one of the first labs to take on this challenge. IDEA laboratory under the IDEA project performs training and viral sequencing based on Oxford Nanopore Technologies for variant identification of SARS CoV-2 to support the government in combating the pandemic.
The training workshop on Advanced molecular diagnostics of SARS CoV-2 and variant identification using Oxford Nanopore sequencing technique for the medical laboratory sector of the Ministry of Health was organized at the University of Colombo, in collaboration with Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany, and the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka. Eight RKI scientists led by Prof. Andreas Nitsche arrived in Colombo on the 21st of November 2021. The workshop was held for three days at the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Colombo, from Tuesday 23rd to Thursday 25th November 2021. On the last day of the training, a certificate was awarded to all trainees after an assessment.
Marking the closure of the training program, an inauguration ceremony for handing over laboratory equipment to the Ministry of Health was held on Friday 26th November 2021 at the Medical Research Institute (MRI).