Published:
6/5/2020

As word of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak spread around the world, countries began looking inward to prepare. In Mali, Prime Minister Dr. Boubou Cisse visited University Clinical Research Center (UCRC) laboratories at the University of Sciences, Techniques, and Technologies of Bamako (USTTB) in March to see how its facilities could help.  

UCRC provides facilities and technology to conduct clinical research protocols and also houses a recently renovated, fully certified Biosafety Level 3 laboratory that can test suspected cases of COVID-19.

The UCRC laboratories are supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Division of Clinical Research and managed through a contract with Frederick National Laboratory’s Clinical Monitoring Research Program Directorate (CMRPD). 

“You can't imagine how this laboratory is now doing for the whole country and the world, and therefore how your support is helping and/or assisting the whole country,” said Dr. Bassirou Diarra, UCRC Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory Chief. 

“Many thanks again. In a short period of time (less than three weeks), this small space has been visited by Malian high authorities: the representative of WHO, the Minister of Health, and the Prime Minister. As [of] March 29, 2020, at 4 a.m. (Mali time), the young motivated scientists have tested more than 300 suspected patients in this laboratory … and this was just to thank you all for your continuous support and assistance,” he added. 

The collaborative research initiative between NIAID/NIH and USTTB began in 2003 with CMRPD’s support and serves as a model for establishing other joint research programs in the developing world. The Biosafety Level 3 laboratory opened in 2006 and is fully operated by Malian scientists with support from various collaborators. 

In 2013, the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene contacted NIAID’s Division of Clinical Research about developing a collaborative clinical research program. Frederick National Laboratory subcontracted with USTTB and oversaw the development of the Mali UCRC, which incorporated existing laboratories and added clinical research infrastructure. 

Over the past six years, CMRPD’s Mali UCRC Project Team has provided operations oversight of an ongoing multicountry clinical study at UCRC, including renovations to a donated building at the Point G Hospital of Bamako to house the UCRC clinic, updates to UCRC’s inventory management system, and renovations and repairs at the Biosafety Level 3 laboratory. Team members, including Elfrida Cline-Cole, Allison Eyler, and Jen Sandrus, travel to Mali at least twice a year to support in-country activities.  

The UCRC allows researchers to use knowledge, expertise, and resources to test and develop novel diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic interventions according to international standards that enhance the quality of health care. The UCRC scientific team is committed to improving the health of the Malian citizens and sharing its research and knowledge by teaching young scientists.

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