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martes, 27 de octubre 2020
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Government gives green light for Antioquia's largest laboratory network

by UdeA Newsroom
Translation by José López

The Antioquia Laboratory Network seeks to strengthen issues such as technological infrastructure and human talent management.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation will provide 42 billion pesos funding for two UdeA projects that seek to strengthen public health laboratories in the department of Antioquia, Colombia. Part of the funds administered by the General System of Royalties will be used to boost the creation of a regional network of laboratories known as the Antioquia Laboratory Network, which would put Antioquia at the forefront of research in molecular biology and infectious diseases.

The Antioquia Laboratory Network seeks to integrate and expand the capacities of the institutions that are part of it in order to promote early and timely diagnosis of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases that may impact public health.

The decentralization of diagnostic services, which are generally carried out in healthcare institutions in Medellín, will allow other regions of the department such as Urabá, as well as the Southwest and East of Antioquia to access these services.

This strategy is possible thanks to an academic-scientific partnership led by UdeA together with higher education institutions, research and technology development centers, a leading local healthcare institution, and the Departmental Laboratory of Public Health. The Antioquia Laboratory Network project, which brings together 14 institutions, ranked first on the eligible lists of the Science, Technology and Innovation Fund -FCTeI-, an initiative of the General System of Royalties.

To this end, FCTeI will provide a 19.7 billion pesos funding, while the academic-scientific coalition provides 4.4 billion, for total of $ 24.3 billion pesos.

According to UdeA Vice Chancellor for Research Sergio Cristancho, the Antioquia Laboratory Network will allow labs to improve the supply of scientific and technological services through cutting-edge equipment and high-quality human resource training. This project will also boost health and bioinformatics research through the use of surveillance and monitoring programs to improve decision-making in public health.
«The most important thing in this matter is that the project will allow us to design a collaborative model that can go beyond the duration of the strategy making it possible to create new projects. This will help mitigate the impact of the pandemic in the region thus improving the ability to carry out diagnoses. It also allows us to advance in the characterization of the potential mutations of the coronavirus, as well as in the development of new technologies, testing, protocols, and the supplies necessary to carry out diagnostic tests. In addition, it will allow us to move forward without depending on what is done either nationally or abroad," Cristancho said.

The vice-chancellor said the isolation of the novel coronavirus by UdeA researchers, together with the capabilities of the Lab Network, are factors that facilitate carrying out studies aimed at identifying new antiviral drugs and disinfectants, as well as advancing in the development of bioinformatics resources to predict the evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV2 in the country and strengthen public health data analytics in order to implement diagnostic and treatment protocols to give a more effective response.

The beginning 

During COVID-19 confinement, various institutions serving in the fields of science, technology and innovation, devised this collaborative project to strengthen public health in the Antioquia department.

This UdeA's School of Microbiology initiative has the participation of other higher education institutions including Universidad Nacional, EIA, Universidad de Medellín, Universidad EAFIT, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, among others.  

Astrid Milena Bedoya, a professor at the UdeA School of Microbiology and principal investigator of the project, highlighted that the initiative involves around 110 people including researchers, laboratory staff, health professionals and related professionals.

“This academic-scientific partnership brings together universities and institutions with extensive research experience in areas ranging from biology and genetics to genomics and bioengineering, among others, which are fields of great importance not only for the study of human-induced diseases and those associated with animals and environmental factors, but also for developing effective, groundbreaking solutions to various problems”, the researcher said.  

Professor Bedoya emphasized that all the institutions involved in the project have very strong capacities such as specialized molecular biology laboratories, nationally recognized research groups, and highly qualified personnel in the fields of microbiology, epidemiology and molecular biology.

For his part, Ricardo Velasco, director of the UdeA School of Microbiology, stressed that the Antioquia Laboratory Network also seeks to recognize and strengthen the existing capacities and the role in society of each of the participating institutions.

"The fact that the project brings together a large number of different types of laboratories and we are willing to share resources to target the same goal, makes it an unprecedented event in the history of Colombia's health system. Without a doubt, at least at the national level, this is a major achievement that occurs amidst the current global crisis. This process has led to the emergence of new capabilities that allow us to effectively face the current contingency and be much better prepared in the event that a similar epidemiological phenomenon occurs again," says Velasco.

The entities involved in the project are recognized nationally and internationally for their advances in topics as varied as biophysics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and biomaterials, genomics, metagenomics and transcriptomics, epidemiology, pathogenesis of infectious diseases, among other areas involving research and services.

Another project ranked on the eligible lists of the Science, Technology and Innovation Fund belongs to the UdeA Faculty of Medicine's Laboratory of Specialized Medicine -LIME-, which brings together a number of labs serving in areas such as pathology, hematology, flow cytometry, pharmacology, toxicology and genetics. LIME facilities also serve as the headquarters of the Specialized Center for Respiratory Infections -CEDIR-.

Sistema Único de Información de Trámites - SUIT
Fundación Universidad de Antioquia
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