In Bangladesh. With Bangladesh. For Bangladesh.
In 2018, we got a small grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to buy our first next-generation sequencing machine – it was a small machine called the iSeq100. It had just been released, and we got the first one in Bangladesh. Using that machine we sequenced the first Dengue virus in Bangladesh. We also sequenced influenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus, in addition to various bacteria and fungi that cause severe infections in children. But the iSeq100 only came to life when we started sequencing SARS-CoV2 in May 2020…
We were the first, but we were not the last. Our usage of the iSeq100 was so successful that the Gates Foundation, in collaboration with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, decided to fund 10 other countries like us to buy their own iSeq100s!
And then, it was time for us to graduate! On 22 Dec 2020 we received a much larger grant to get a much bigger and better sequencing machine – the NextSeq2000. This machine is also very new and the first in Bangladesh!
Historically, low- and middle-income countries like ours have to send their samples to rich, developed countries for sequencing due to constrains in resources and capacity. While we do the hard work of implementing the projects, collecting the samples, it is often the scientists of the rich countries who get the credit for sequencing… At CHRF we want to break that vicious cycle. We want to build capacity so that we are able to do our own sequencing, be the owners of our data, and serve Bangladesh. We want to be independent.
This new state-of-the-art sequencing machine takes us another step forward to fulfilling this dream. With this machine, we hope to sequence the most important pathogens that cause disease. Using sequencing data, we want to track bacteria and viruses circulating in Bangladesh, learn about them, and fight them.
We also want to use this machine to teach sequencing to as many next-generation scientists as possible.
None of this would be possible without the continuous, and selfless support of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, specifically Joe, Cristina, Vida, Madeline, Lillian, and Rebecca! And definitely not without the trust of Farhad of the Gates Foundation – Farhad believed in CHRF and Bangladesh before anyone else did. He saw in us perhaps even what we did not.
We are also very thankful for the support that Illumina and Invent Technologies continue to provide.
We hope that the model that CHRF is building in fighting infectious diseases is replicated throughout Bangladesh and other low- and middle-income countries to become independent and fight childhood infectious diseases.
YES, WE CAN.