Rwanda, US biotech firm in joint effort to address biosecurity challenges

The government has entered into a partnership with American Biotechnology Company, Ginkgo Bioworks, in a bid to develop new biosecurity capabilities in Rwanda.
Ginkgo, also the leading horizontal platform for cell programming, plans to support Rwanda’s public health institutions as the country works to address biosecurity challenges in the region.

Biosecurity is the prevention of disease-causing agents entering or leaving any place where they can pose a risk to farm animals, other animals, humans, or the safety and quality of a food product.

Under the agreement, Ginkgo, through its biosecurity and public health initiative, Concentric by Ginkgo (“Concentric”), plans to collaborate with Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to equip these institutions with biosecurity tools and training as well as the secure data infrastructure they need to leverage automation, data analysis, bioinformatics capabilities, and other critical genomic sequencing technologies.

“The future of biosecurity is global—COVID-19 has shown us all that pathogens don’t recognise national borders. To prepare for the next biological threat, we need the infrastructure in place to build a global weather map tracking the spread and evolution of infectious diseases,” said Matt McKnight, General Manager, Biosecurity at Ginkgo Bioworks.

He added, “We deeply appreciate Rwanda’s leadership working to define a new era of biosecurity, and we are incredibly excited to use our platform to support Rwanda’s public health institutions with critical capabilities that we believe will help them face challenges ranging from this pandemic to agricultural and travel biosecurity.”

According to officials, effective pathogen monitoring and data sharing capabilities can lead to informed public health decisions.

In the long-term, these capabilities can also be leveraged to form the foundation for a sustainable regional bioeconomy.

Clare Akamanzi, RDB Chief Executive noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for robust public health and biotechnology infrastructure in Rwanda and around the world. We are excited about our plans to partner with Ginkgo to bring cutting-edge biosecurity capabilities to Rwanda across various sectors including health and agriculture. We believe this will stimulate our growing bioeconomy and help us learn more about our biodiversity.”

Ginkgo and RDB plan to collaborate to inform workforce development priorities in the areas of biotechnology, biomanufacturing, and bioengineering, and to explore potential opportunities for Rwanda to leverage its biodiversity as a foundation for innovation within its bioeconomy.