When it comes to medical diagnostics devices, Africa is seen mainly as a consumer not a producer. But young African Scientists like Dr. Laud Anthony Basing, the Medical Laboratory Scientist behind the COVID-19 Rapid Diagnostic Test kits manufactured in Ghana, are determined to change that narrative as the continent, like the rest of the world, fights COVID-19.
“Africa imports almost all the test kits that are used and does not have an indigenous African owned test kit manufacturing company,” says MLS Basing, a science entrepreneur and founder of Incas Diagnostics in Ghana.
The continent’s “disease burdens are multi factorial and most often affect the poor disproportionately,” he notes, adding: “Unfortunately, there are no indigenous companies that find solutions to these problems.”
That is why Incas, the company that he leads as CEO, is specifically focused on finding solutions to these problems that are affecting the continent. “Incas seeks to save lives through the design and production of low-cost, easy-to-use, point-of-care diagnostic test kits designed specifically for conditions in Africa,” he states in an interview.
As a frontline health worker in Medical Laboratory Science practice and a part of a global community for developing COVID-19 RDT kits, Basing reveals: “I was burdened with what I could contribute to the global pandemic particularly in Ghana. It is refreshing to note that our ideas have borne fruits.”
Incas Diagnostics have developed a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kit for COVID-19. The device is currently awaiting approval from Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority. When certified by the regulatory authorities, the kit will go a long way to assist in Ghana’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The test kit uses just drops of blood from the fingertip and gives results within 15 minutes. The simple testing kit will speed up Ghana’s COVID-19 testing efforts and, likely to save the country the cost of contact tracing and exposure of health workers to risk during sample collection for testing. All positive cases would be referred for confirmation with PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, which offer higher sensitive but takes longer to get results back.
Incas Diagnostic intends to donate 5000-10,000 pieces of the RDT kits to support Ghana’s fight against COVID-19. “With this technology in place, we shall offer our services to produce the kits, with no profit in focus, as our major contribution to the fight against COVID-19,” says a delighted Basing.
Born and bred in Ghana, Laud Basing attended GAEC Basic School in Accra and St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary in Wa before proceeding to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) for his degree in Medical Laboratory Science. He later obtained his MPhil and PhD at the same University before pursuing further studies at the Purdue University in the US and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
MLS Basing is held in high esteem by his colleague Medical Laboratory Scientists and has held several positions in the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS). He is a former regional executive of GAMLS, having been the Secretary of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) Chapter, Ashanti Regional Secretary, Ashanti Regional Financial Secretary and Ashanti Regional Vice Chairman. He is a Fellow of the West Africa Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science (WAPCMLS) and also of the Ghana Chapter of the College.
MLS Basing largely credits the medical laboratory science practice for his success. “The profession of Medical Laboratory Science has been the spring board that has shot me to these levels. Joining the professional ranks in 2006, I have been mentored by a now Chief Biomedical Scientist, MLS Thomas Gyampomah who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. His quote of ‘learn something new every day’ encouraged me to seek knowledge,” he recalls.
On the development of the covid19 test kit, Basing talked about how the professional body has been instrumental and supportive in opening several doors to ensure that the work was done. “The Ghana Post-Graduate College of Medical Laboratory Science as well as the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Science led us to meet the Minister of Health who instructed Incas to produce the test kit for FDA’s approval. They also led me to the Presidency and got me introduced by the Minister of Health to the Presidency, and subsequently arranged a meeting with the Special Advisor to the President on health and the COVID-19 team at the presidency.”
To further explain the support he has received from the professional bodies, the young entrepreneur talked about how MLS Bernard Nkrumah, a Fellow of the Ghana Post-Graduate College of Medical Laboratory Science, trained and advised his company’s Quality Management Team. “Basically, Incas Diagnostics and I would not have gotten to where we are today without the help, support and encouragement of the Profession” he states.
MSL Basing is the first Ghanaian to have been nominated for the Innovation Prize for Africa award. The prestigious award aimed at strengthening Africa’s innovation ecosystems through support for a culture of innovation and competitiveness, while spurring growth of innovative, market-driven African solutions to African challenges.
In 2017, he was named one of the 50 most influential young Ghanaians and was 2017 Emerging Leaders under 40 winner in the health and wellness category in Ghana. Dr. Basing won first place in the Social Innovation Track of the 2018 Burton Morgan Business Model Competition in Purdue University and Second place in the 2017 Shurz Innovation Challenge for developing a urine-based Point of Care Diagnostic Kit for Sexually Transmitted Diseases, called VagKit.
Last year, Basing was named one of the top 30 innovators in health in Africa in the World Health Organization’s 2019 Africa Innovation Challenge. Recently, he won first place in the WHOs Covid19 Hackathon held in April 2020. All his innovations are either already on the market or are in different stages of validation.
The 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow in Business and Entrepreneurship believes that the future of science research and innovation in Africa for Africa is very bright, as governments are encouraging local innovations to respond to covid19. This, he is convinced, will spur on a number of local innovations based on solid scientific research, led by universities in partnership with entrepreneurs and local innovators.
Prior to being selected as a Mandela Fellow, Laud had been volunteering for the health directorate of the Upper West Akim District and this among other things led to his selection as a fellow. The Mandela Washington fellowship is premised on personal leadership achievement as well as community service.
As the Executive Director of Incas Impact Foundation which offers mentorship and capacity building for Ghanaian youth, MLS Basing hopes to shape the life of young people. “Mentorship has shaped me and brought me this far and it’s my firm belief that mentorship and capacity building is essential in shaping the dreams of Africa’s future leaders and that is why this foundation was set up.”
The foundation offers programmes that teach skills to out-of-school youth, offers opportunities to Junior High School and Senior High School students to shape their career choices. The Foundation also helps to build the capacity of medical laboratories in rural districts.
When asked of his assessment of the potentials in Medical Laboratory Scientists in Ghana, he asserted that “with regulations and appropriate legislative instruments, implemented quality management systems, appropriate infrastructure and policies, Medical Laboratory Science Professionals in the country could perform just as their counterparts in other revered institutions globally to benefit Ghanaians”.
>>>The writer is a Principal Medical Laboratory Scientist and Research Fellow at the Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC). Adu-Gyasi is an Immunologist and a Fellow of the West Africa College of Medical Laboratory Science. He is also the PRO for the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS).