By Ralph Sesay (PRO Njala University)
Njala University, said to be Sierra Leone’s only rural and agricultural based University dedicated to the cardinal principles of teaching, learning, research and community service 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 in ensuring that 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 equipments to perform number of tests in various hemorrhagic fevers and other related viruses.
The Department of Biological Sciences, School of Environmental Sciences where Professor Aiah Lebbie is the lead principal investigator has a fully equipped Bio-molecular diagnostic laboratory sponsored by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) in the United States through the ‘’Ecological Surveillance of High Consequence Pathogens in Sierra Leone’’.
The US CDC spent over a million dollars in various equipments including PCR’s and around five hundred thousand dollars in different reagents.
The Bio-molecular laboratory, focusing on testing samples for viral pathogens including Ebola, Marburg, Sosuga, Tai Fever, Monkey Pox virus, Lasssa Fever 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 equipments, increased capacity of staff and students to undertake ecological surveys, analyse and preserve samples for better interpretation among key other 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 equipments.
Prof Aiah Lebbie called on the Ministry of Health to strongly collaborate with Njala University especially in the areas of research and expressed his 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.
He highlighted the fact that he is hugely collaborating with the University of Texas through the CDC(US) who, according to him, 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 South of the country which had 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 Vice Principal and 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 which seems to be challenging.
Professor Sankoh is a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group for Emergencies (STAGE) recently inaugurated by President Bio to help Government in assessing, planning and evaluating the Government’s response in addressing the deadly COVID -19 pandemic in the country.