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Asia’s Rising Scientists: Senjuti Saha

Senjuti Saha
Little one Well being Analysis Basis (CHRF)

Asian Scientist Journal (Jul. 22, 2022) — Initially of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have been racing in opposition to time to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 genome and map its unfold throughout the globe. Inside days, the complete sequence was printed on-line. This speedy turnaround was attainable resulting from a greater knowledge and knowledge sharing throughout borders, permitting scientists to optimize their sequencing protocols in actual time as researchers in academia and the pharmaceutical business started the duty of creating a vaccine to fight the unfold.

Nonetheless, not all international locations noticed the fast advantages of this nice achievement. Traditionally, inequity in international well being analysis has disproportionately impacted decrease and center revenue international locations. The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered this once more within the inaccessibility of genomic sequencing reagents and – extra disturbingly – the painfully sluggish and unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to the International South.

Regardless of this, an growing variety of native analysis teams within the International South are finishing up SARS-CoV-2 sequencing and surveillance. In reality, it’s by the sequencing and monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 variants in South Africa that led to the primary detection of the Omicron variant.

In Bangladesh, Dr Senjuti Saha, director of the Little one Well being Analysis Basis (CHRF), led her workforce of scientists to efficiently sequence the complete SARS-CoV-2 genome of their genomic sequencing facility in Dhaka. Now, Saha is main an ongoing mission of mapping and surveilling the presence of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern throughout Bangladesh.

A fervent advocate of analysis and knowledge fairness in international well being, she speaks to Asian Scientist Journal and shares the challenges she and her workforce confronted of their mapping and surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 variants in Bangladesh, and the significance of perseverance to construct a extra equitable analysis panorama.

  1. Why did you create an infectious illness genomic sequencing facility in Bangladesh?

    Earlier than I opened this genomic sequencing facility, I did my molecular genetics PhD in Canada and had been residing there for 11 years. I made a decision to return to Bangladesh as a result of I needed to handle the ten/90 hole – 10% of world sources specializing in well being analysis is invested in creating international locations the place 90% of preventable deaths in kids happen. And that is one thing that I really feel may be very unfair. I needed to convey my experience in genomic sequencing again to my delivery nation to empower the native scientific neighborhood in narrowing that 10/90 hole.

    I moved again to Bangladesh in 2016 and started the method of opening my very own genomic sequencing facility. By 2018 we had a small sequencing machine. I secured funding and collaborated with native sequencing teams to coach one another on utilizing the sequencing machine to sequence pathogenic microbes which might be endemic to Bangladesh equivalent to meningitis and typhoid.
    When COVID-19 hit Bangladesh, we had already established the services and the experience wanted to conduct genomic sequencing, so we didn’t have to consider the logistics and capability of sequencing SARS-CoV-2 right here. With no matter sources we’ve got, we should begin documenting precisely what are the variants which might be circulating within the nation.

  2. Had been there any main hurdles you and your workforce confronted whereas sequencing and surveilling SARS-CoV-2 variants?
    After we first began sequencing the SARS-CoV-2 genome, we didn’t have entry to sources, and obtainable protocols weren’t optimized. We had very restricted reagents obtainable, so we might solely sequence a single pattern. On prime of that, the scientists skilled in sequencing at CHRF have been working on the diagnostic labs within the morning and will solely put together the samples for sequencing at evening.

    We succeeded in sequencing SARS-CoV-2, and though the sequence itself didn’t inform us a lot at that time, it did give us confidence that these kinds of issues will be completed efficiently in international locations like ours. From there, extra teams in Bangladesh started sequencing SARS-CoV-2. We labored collaboratively with a number of teams within the nation to take randomized samples in sufferers and suspected circumstances, sequence the genome and preserve monitor of the variants current within the inhabitants. It has now change into a collaborative effort to surveil and monitor the unfold of SARS-CoV-2 variants throughout the nation.

  3. Analysis and knowledge inequity has been one of many main challenges scientists from the International South have confronted within the race to know ailments.  Do you imagine this case is altering?

    Completely. I feel what we’ve completed right here in CHRF and in Bangladesh has highlighted that analysis performed by scientists within the International South will be completed efficiently and independently. We will go in opposition to the colonial mannequin the place collaborators from the International North are available, take some pattern, get their sneakers soiled for a day, sequence, course of and interpret the info outdoors of the nation the place the samples have been initially obtained.

    However for me, I feel what’s extra rewarding is the boldness that individuals have gained within the nation, as a result of I feel that colonial tradition works each methods. It’s not just like the International North is simply at fault. I feel we’re equally at fault of perpetuating that colonial tradition, as a result of maybe we overlook what our talents are.

  4. What’s the driving pressure behind your advocacy work?
    It’s feelings, ardour, lived experiences and love for the neighborhood that propels the work ahead. After we take a look at historical past, we take a look at apartheid, the feminism actions and extra lately the Black Lives Matter motion, it isn’t the oppressor who brings change, however somewhat the oppressed who expertise and acknowledge the issue. They mobilize, lead and push these social actions ahead.  Energy is rarely given; energy should be taken.

    I’m nonetheless studying this lesson. A few years in the past, I might be giving talks to a International North viewers and talk about about issues affecting the International South, attempting to vary their minds and present them the actual situation. Whereas I feel that’s necessary -and I nonetheless do talks like that – I feel what’s extra necessary is that researchers in Bangladesh and different lower-middle revenue international locations acknowledge what the issue is and take it upon themselves to maneuver the agenda ahead.

  5. With any main motion, there’ll at all times be backlash particularly for actions headed by marginalized communities. Is there any recommendation you wish to give younger scientists in navigating and pushing previous the backlash?
    Persistence is extraordinarily necessary. That is one thing that I’ve discovered -and I’m nonetheless studying – all through my profession. You possibly can brute pressure your means by, however it might probably solely take you thus far. We’ve to be strategic, and we want unity. We will’t change centuries price of mindset inside a couple of years. It takes time. So, we’ve obtained to be affected person however agency in our unity and centered on our values and mission.


(Responses are edited for size and readability).

This text is from a daily collection referred to as Asia’s Rising Scientists. Click on right here to learn different articles within the collection.

Copyright: Asian Scientist Journal; Picture: Little one Well being Analysis Basis.



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