October 2, 2022

Sierra Leone’s only rural and agricultural based University dedicated to the cardinal principles of teaching, learning, research and community service, Njala University  is once more showcasing its research laboratory capacity amongst its peers in the educational and research based arena.

This move is borne out of the desire of the Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Osman Sankoh, who is very keen on ensuring the huge potentials of Njala University in various spheres should be told to the wider world.

Njala University has three research and teaching laboratories with well trained staff and sophisticated equipment to perform number of tests in various hemorrhagic fevers and other related viruses.

One of the trainees from the CDC project providing briefing for the Pro Chancellor when he visited the facility

The Department of Biological Sciences, School of Environmental Sciences where Professor Aiah Lebbie is the lead Principal Investigator, Njala University has a fully equipped Bio-molecular diagnostic laboratory sponsored by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States of America (USA) through the “Ecological Surveillance of High Consequence Pathogens in Sierra Leone.”

The US CDC spent over US$1, 000, 000 in various equipment including PCR’s and around US$500, 000.00 in different reagents.

The Bio-molecular laboratory focuses on testing samples for viral pathogens including Ebola, Marburg, Sosuga, Tai Fever, Monkey Pox virus, Lassa fever among others. It has strongly aided teaching, learning and research.

The CDC project has hugely invested in staff and student training, provision of sophisticated and first class research laboratory equipment, increased capacity of staff and students to undertake ecological surveys, analyse and preserve samples for better interpretation among other key interventions.

The Lead Principal Investigator, who also doubles as the Head of Department of Biological Sciences, School of Environmental Sciences Njala University noted that the laboratory has got what it takes in terms of equipment and personnel, to conduct, interpret and analyse various ecological samples.

He further highlighted the fact that his laboratory has a twenty-four hour interrupted electricity to consistently power the various equipment.

Prof Aiah Lebbie calls on the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) to strongly collaborate with Njala University, especially in the area of research. He however expressed fears of what would become of the huge investment and the trained personnel when the US CDC project would have phased out completely in 2024.

Prof Aiah Lebbie said he is hugely collaborating with the University of Texas through the CDC, US that are interested in undertaking research and studies in various set of other viruses.

The project, according to him, has also been able to fully equip Tiwai Island in the Southern Region of the country that has remained the major research centre of the School of Environmental Sciences with guest facilities, power and other research equipment.

It is the ultimate desire of the Acting Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Osman Sankoh for the Ministry of Health and the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to use the available laboratory and research facilities at Njala University in strengthening the fight against COVID-19, especially around the areas of testing that seems to be challenging.

Professor Sankoh is a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group for Emergencies (STAGE) recently inaugurated by President Julius Maada Bio, to help government in assessing, planning and evaluating government’s response to addressing the novel COVID -19 pandemic in the country.

CREDIT: Ralph Sesay (PRO Njala University)