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The Centre for Genomic Pathogen Surveillance, part of the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford, has been awarded funding worth £7m for their work as an NIHR Global Health Research Unit (GHRU) for the next five years.

A research student at an electronic equipment

The Centre’s research and capacity building work focuses on delivering genomics and enabling data for the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

AMR is increasingly predicted to affect health and wellbeing on an international scale. New technologies and greater understanding are required to mitigate against and reduce resistance to effective treatments against infectious diseases around the world.

Since 2017, the centre based in Oxford has coordinated the implementation of an AMR monitoring project at reference sites in India, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Colombia and has already helped improve the detection and tracking of outbreaks and AMR populations. The full results of the project can be read in a special edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. The project’s partners were Dr Ravikumar at the Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences in India, Dr Celia Carlos at Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in the Philippines, Professor Iruka N. Okeke at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and Dr Pilar Godoy at AGROSAVIA in Colombia.

Professor David Aanensen, Lead PI of the NIHR GHRU Project at Oxford said:

“We are delighted to continue our partnerships into the next phase of the Global Health Research Unit, building on the foundations and partnerships we have developed over the last few years. Going forward the need for local data science and engineering and linking of clinical and epidemiological data to genomics is apparent. This focus on transforming the data landscape within local and regional hubs will enhance infection control and inform decisive action to address the impact of antimicrobial resistance globally’’

The NIHR GHRU equipped laboratories with sequencing capabilities that could pivot toward the COVID-19 pandemic efforts and now we are re-focusing on AMR and aiming to stop infections by operationalising surveillance models for priority AMR pathogens for each country, and defining a whole genome sequencing sampling strategy for targeted outbreak investigation. The NIHR wrote a feature on the impact and outputs of the first NIHR Global Health Research Unit.

This Unit continues to support regional networks in laboratory, bioinformatics, data and institutional capacity to sustain AMR surveillance as well as local sustainability for sequencing and Good Financial Grant Practice.

A major focus will be to assess stakeholder needs, and analysing the data and reporting landscape to enhance surveillance. By linking data and its interpretation we aim to rapidly increase value to public health decision makers at a local level, as well as the routine combination of data aggregated at regional, national and international levels.

Professor Iruka N. Okeke, Lead PI of the NIHR GHRU Project in Nigeria said:

“The Project will expand our scope to developing and linking data solutions so that genomic data can be linked to clinical and epidemiological information close to real time for priority AMR pathogens. Generating actionable data to enable policy makers and public health programmes to make informed decisions is crucial for Nigeria CDC, which this program supports, as well as to public health institutions in all countries in our units.  We also look forward to the opportunity to continue to learn from one another and leveraging particular strengths and expertise at different sites across the units.”

For more information on the work of the NIHR GHRU Project please visit the project website.