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Improving Laboratories in Africa


In developing countries inadequate laboratory facilities and lack of trained personnel form a serious stumbling block for sectors that use microbiology laboratories for research, monitoring or commercial purposes.

Find out more about how Bionautit influences and improve the lives of thousands of people around the world.

Bionautit team member working in Kenya

Bionautit is a Finnish scientific co-operative venture specializing in providing research and consultancy for scientific projects, primarily in the fields of microbiology and biology.

Lab Impact Africa Project

Improving microbiology laboratories in developing countries

Microbiology laboratories are the backbone for several public services responsible for human and animal health, food and water quality and crop protection and growth. In developing countries inadequate laboratory facilities and lack of trained personnel form a serious stumbling block for the development of those sectors that use microbiology laboratories for research, surveillance or business.

Spreading of the Ebola epidemic in West-Africa in 2014, is an illustrative example of the consequences when the infective microbial agent is not recognized rapidly. In Finland, efficient laboratories conform to the international quality standards and we are also globally acknowledged in developing new teaching methodologies. Co-op Bionautit wants to combine all the best qualities of Finnish laboratory practices and the modern teaching techniques to form a service product entity that can be modified and implemented together with customers in Africa and later in other developing countries.

Impact of improved laboratories

Improved laboratory services in developing countries can bring forth many positive changes in the society:

  • Improved public health due to detection of human and animal health hazards (pathogens, toxic cyanobacteria) and food and water safety surveillance
  • New innovations for climate-smart agriculture (e.g. use of bacterial inoculants for legume and other crops)
  • Laying basis for biotechnology enterprises (extracting bioactive compounds, which might provide a source for e.g. novel antibiotics)
  • More knowledge on the beneficial role of microbes on human beings and the life-cycles of the Earth
  • Complying with the internationally accepted Good Laboratory Practice (GLP, i.e. a quality system) is essential for the laboratories from the developing countries to gain international credibility
  • Building human capacities in the laboratory-based sciences offers the scientists from developing countries a chance to get integrated in the global science community as equal partners.

Modular laboratory package

We have designed a flexible modular laboratory package that can be utilized in innovative ways as determined by the customer needs. Suitable modules can be chosen from the package and adapted to the local operational environment in collaboration with the customer. The package includes following main modules:

  • Laboratory: space, equipment and infrastructure
  • Methodology: appropriate techniques and protocols, analysis of results
  • Education: staff, students, teachers, teaching methods, planning of curricula, management system
  • Good Laboratory Practice (GLP): internationally standardized testing and management, safety issues

Depending on the local needs, we offer expertise in setting up a new laboratory or improving the functioning of an existing one. The laboratories can represent different fields of microbiology, e.g. health, food and water quality, agriculture or environment. We can provide help in developing either a research laboratory or a teaching laboratory. For a research laboratory we can provide help in developing the laboratory infrastructure and management as well as provide suitable contacts in the universities and other research institutes in Finland to develop new joint research projects and joint supervision of the advanced students. For a teaching laboratory we can offer help with obtaining the equipment and building the infrastructure of the laboratory as well as in developing the curriculum and introducing new teaching methods. We build into a project an aspect of “training the trainers”, including visits of the customers to a relevant Finnish laboratory to get concrete new ideas to develop their own activities. In training the teachers we promote using modern collaborative learning techniques.

Evidence-based research applied to practice

The laboratory module package forms a service product, which is based on rigorous academic research and take advantage of concept testing, validation and evaluation processes. Each project will start with need charting together with the customer and the constant customer collaboration is essential for obtaining a sustainable outcome. The benefits, problems and results of our work will be evaluated by academically designed studies, the results of which will be fed back to the evidence-based decision making cycle (see the chart below). This way we wish to bridge the gap between academia, business and societal development.

Visual representing transfer of evidence-based knowledge and technology.

Pilot initiative in Burkina Faso

Several members of Co-op Bionautit have previously worked closely with African microbiologists in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and elsewhere. These contacts became even more relevant when the University of Helsinki launched its unique science-based Helsinki Challenge competition in 2014. A teamof scientists formed of Co-op Bionautit members and University of Helsinki staff was selected on to the 'Accelerator Programme', where our new ideas will be crystallized to produce real life solutions to grand socialogical challenges facing us today.

Read more about our team and our idea here http://challenge.helsinki.fi/blog/improving-laboratories-in-africa

Join us in our endeavour by sending your support through Facebook or Twitter, where you can follow the current activities in improving the laboratories in Burkina Faso.

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