Last month, Ubiquitome announced the finalists of the Freedom For You grants program. The grants program was designed to highlight and support projects that require remote qPCR, with each eventual winner receiving a Freedom4 device. The ten selected finalists are receiving support from Ubiquitome in the form of Freedom4 qPCR reagents and consumables, project design consultation, and technical support, including wet lab processing. Three grant winners will receive a Freedom4 gold standard qPCR mobile device worth USD$25,000.
One of the selected finalists is Research Professor Gebremeskel Hidat from Aksum University in Ethiopia, for his research on HPV and cervical cancer.
Currently Mr Hidat is heading a team testing and treating women in nomadic communities for HPV and cervical cancer. With his team, he has been travelling rural Ethiopia, locating at risk nomadic communities. “Our people are mobile, moving from site to site, however there are still no HPV vaccination and screening programs [in Ethiopia], and only one public hospital has a cervical cancer referral treatment facility” says Mr Hidat.
Collecting samples from the women is a quick and relatively painless process. Once collected the samples are transported to a central lab for qPCR analysis. This determines whether or not HPV is present. Once testing is complete, Mr Hidat must return to the community to deliver the diagnosis, administer treatment and educate the community on preventing the further spread of HPV. The current issue with this testing and treatment procedure is that often when Gebremeskel goes back to the community they have moved on and the likelihood of finding them again is very, very low.
By itself, HPV is a global issue as it is the precursor to cervical cancer but when it is co-infected with HIV the results can be deadly. Because Africa has such a high prevalence of HIV, the chances of a co-infection are high. Preventing HPV in the first place, or at the very least managing it, can help to eliminate the risk of the co-infection spreading further throughout the country.
Since one of the biggest issues for dealing with HPV infection in remote communities is the time between testing and treatment, Mr Hidat is looking at mobile molecular testing as an alternative to the centralised laboratory. Having a mobile qPCR device would allow testing, diagnosis and treatment to occur all on the same day while the researchers are with the communities, rather than having to relocate the nomadic community later. This is a very new approach in Ethiopia and is being monitored very closely.
For more information on Mr Hidat’s research click here or to view a full list of the finalists visit our website www.ubiquitomebio.com.