Grand Challenges Canada, in partnership with the World Organisation for Animal Health, Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program, The Pirbright Institute and implementation partners at Science for Africa Foundation are exploring the application of a Grand Challenge approach to identify innovation that seeks to reinvent the laboratory, making it fit-for-purpose in resource-limited contexts globally.
A Grand Challenge for Sustainable Diagnostic Containment Laboratories will seek to reduce ongoing operational costs and ensure safe and secure handling of high consequence pathogenic materials, including ‘disease X’, whilst maintaining core functions of a diagnostic lab in low- and middle-income countries.
Infectious disease laboratories play a central role in supporting animal health and public health services. However, complex and persistent barriers, both technical and systemic, hinder the sustainable operation of diagnostic containment laboratories in low-and middle-income countries. Innovation designed to sustain the functions of a diagnostic containment laboratory safely and securely in low-resource settings would not only reduce risks to global health security but also support agricultural productivity, food security and safety, livelihoods, economic prosperity and animal and human health.
For over 10 years, Chatham House, the UK International Biosecurity Programme, Global Affairs Canada, World Organisation for Animal Health, and the World Health Organization have partnered with a global network of animal and public health experts to improve the sustainability of diagnostic containment laboratories. Their scoping efforts have identified myriad interdependent factors that challenge the sustainability of laboratories, with adverse impacts for health, security, and economies. The complexity of this issue has demanded a multi-partner, multipronged program of work to devise innovative solutions.
As part of that program of work, the World Organisation for Animal Health, with funding support from Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and technical support from The Pirbright Institute, are partnering with Grand Challenges Canada and our implementation partners at Science for Africa Foundation to explore the application of a Grand Challenge approach to the issue of sustainable diagnostic laboratories.
Our partnership has adopted a phased approach to the potential development of a full Grand Challenge for Sustainable Diagnostic Containment Laboratories. Outcomes of a Phase I feasibility study will determine the feasibility, scope and parameters of a Grand Challenge in this area, informing design of a fully-funded program in Phase II.
Request for Expressions of Interest
As a core component of the Phase I feasibility study, Grand Challenges Canada launched a Request for Expressions of Interest in February 2023 designed to landscape the state of innovative ideas seeking to address diagnostic containment laboratory sustainability.
The Request for Expressions of Interest sought bold ideas that will reinvent the laboratory, making it fit-for-purpose in resource-limited contexts globally. These innovative solutions are expected to reimagine the physical laboratory in order to reduce ongoing operational and maintenance costs and allow sustainable presence of safe and secure handling of high-consequence pathogenic materials, whilst maintaining and/or optimizing core functions of a diagnostic containment laboratory in low- and middle-income countries.
Grand Challenges Canada and partners specifically sought innovation in the following areas of focus:
- End-to-end laboratory concepts and design, including those that limit resource-intensive components (energy, clean water and air, waste disposal, equipment maintenance) of current diagnostic laboratories.
- Laboratory operation to meet the functions required for high-consequence pathogens to be handled safely and securely, bridging the need for high-intensity operation in crisis times with standard operations.
- Business models for ownership and utility of laboratory functions sustained by local leadership.
This call generated a total of 76 Expressions of Interest. Submitted Expressions of Interest have been subject to an external review process, and applicants can expect feedback from that process in Fall 2023.
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