Programs and Capabilities of LIBR
Emerging natural and man-made threats to the health of the nation’s population in Liberia require development of a seamless laboratory network to address preventable health risks. This can be achieved only by defining the role of public health laboratories in public and private laboratory service delivery. Establishing defined core functions and capabilities for the country’s public health laboratories will provide a basis for assessing and improving the quality of laboratory activities. Public health is changing, and as a part of that change, public health laboratories must advocate for and implement improvements for public health testing and surveillance.
In response to an increasing concern regarding the population’s vulnerability to health risks, efforts must be made to reduce preventable risks (e.g., those related to antimicrobial resistance, food borne illness, and environmental threats). Accurate and timely laboratory analyses are critical to identifying, tracking, and limiting public health threats and ultimately reducing rates of preventable morbidity and mortality. The Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR) must make positive contributions to these changes.
Training of Liberian Scientists and Health Care Workers
In addition to its role in the future training, LIBR must attract outstanding graduates of the University of Liberia and Cuttington University College for intensive training in laboratory skills in the scientific aspects of projects, and in the preparation of scientific papers. The best of these trainees will be selected and funds solicited for them to pursue graduate training towards MSc and Ph.D degrees or to develop skills in contemporary molecular biology laboratory techniques. LIBR also takes great pride in working along side other national organizations, such as the Armed Forces of Liberia and the National Malaria Contol Program.
Emergency Response, Reference and Specialized Diagnostic Capabilities
As evidenced in the 2014-2015 Ebola response, LIBR is a key public health asset. Personnel and capabilities from LIBR were deployed in support of the international response. The Liberian National Reference Laboratory located at LIBR during the outbreak, in collaboration with NAMRU-3, NIH/NIAID-IRF and USAMRIID, provided containment and PCR diagnostic capabilities that contributed to the successful reduction of Ebola virus infection in Liberia. In collaboration with NIH/NIAID-IRF, advanced serological techniques have been added to LIBR to support surveillance and vaccine trial projects.
Field Surveillance and Insectory
Expertise in entomology and field sampling sites across the country, as well as, a working insectory enable LIBR scientists and collaborators to study endemic vector borne diseases. Ongoing collaborations with NAMRU-3 and Colorado State University include malaria and arbovirus vector surveillance, molecular testing for an array of vector borne diseases, insecticide resistence detection, and novel methods of xenosurveillance.
The LIBR Genomic Center
In collaboration with the USAMRIID Center for Genome Sciences a next-generation sequencing center utilizing the Illumina MiSeq sequencing platform became operational at LIBR during the Ebola outbreak response in 2014. Initially the mission of the center was to characterize Ebola viral genomes to assess for erosion of diagnostic and therapeutic targets, as well as, provide the scientific and public health communities working in Liberia with viral genomic information within one week of sample collection. Looking to the future, the center will be supporting surveillance projects across the country investigating reservoir animals and insect vectors of disease to identify potential threats. Additionally, the center will support ongoing assessment of patient samples with severe disease of unknown origin providing a key public health asset to West Africa.