DNA and Double Strands of Progress

Posted by permission of John Mwakio

DNA and Forensics is changing the modern landscape of Kenya and the East African region at large. In the last few years, the impact has been transformative in how we address sexual assault cases that have been increasing at an alarming rate, paternity testing as realities of modern lifestyles affecting the social fabric of the Kenyan society. It now possible to access quality DNA profiles right here in Kenya that can be obtained within a week whenever needed. This is significantly reducing timelines for prosecuting cases which was not the same a few years ago.

In addition we have witnessed tragedies such as fire outbreaks due to petrol leakageswhere citizens get completely burnt beyond recognition, or homicide cases with completely decomposed remains increasing family agony, identities of individuals can now be resolved within 2 days using modern technologies that Africa Biosystems Limited is deploying in the region.

When I was a boy, science and double stranded DNA meant no much than knowledge acquisition in order to pass the exams. Today I see daily reports of societal needs that can adequately be addressed if we use DNA technology. From food security through reinvigorating African Orphaned crops to improve yields & animal productivity with better resistance to disease and even improved healthcare healthcare through improved disease surveillance and deployment of suitable treatment paradigms for non-communicable disease like cancers. All thanks to increased DNA technology.

One of the most eye opening accomplishments at our company has been changing the waywe tailor outcome based approaches with key research institutions like ICRAF, KEMRI, ICIPE, universities and private healthcare institutions, demonstrating benefit to society.

The challenge in Kenya though has been over-reliance of donor funding to carry out research projectwith potential to unlock solutions that will help realize the vision 2030 sooner. Despite there being policies towards allocating 2% of the countries budget annually to fund research project, the same has not been actualized to-date.

Here’s what we need from America: Increased funding in research to Support technology transfer and capacity building in collaboration with research and academic institutions. Partnerships aimed at local production to mitigate high cost of imported technologies.

I believe Kenyans should understand this about the future of DNA today- its literally about life solutions to most of our challenges when correctly applied. We need more genetic scientists, bio-informaticians equipped with the right skills in order to tap into the potential in biotechnology.

What we would like to achieve with President Obama’s trip is how we can implement key initiatives will the US companies with the aim of building capacity and enhance market access to the American technologies. What do we need to know about policy frameworks needed to be in place in Kenya in order create a conducive environment to nature these technologies in the regions. Lastly how can Kenyan research and academic institution or most importantly informal sectors tap into the significant funding that is available in the US towards research that is beyond the current engagement at CDC e.t.c. and consider home grown projects and provide solutions for our regions.

I believe to deepen the relationship between Kenya and the US, we have to come from donor-recipient kind of mindset to mutual partners in transformative innovations suitable for the regions. That approach will linger long tightening our shared dream for a healthier, safer democracies that benefit citizens of these two great countries. There is yet more out there that we are yet to uncover using biotechnology and an early engagement in exploring solutions will certainly be a game changer.

Originally published at akomanet.com on July 22, 2015.