At the heart of its efforts is the creation of laboratory networks, which foster the sharing of skills and knowledge to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases that disproportionately impact developing countries, like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.
GABRIEL – the Global Approach to Biological Research, Infectious diseases and Epidemics in Low-income countries – is an international scientific network created by Fondation Mérieux in 2008 to reinforce research laboratories’ capabilities and foster collaboration in the field of infectious diseases. GABRIEL connects labs in more than 17 countries including Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, China, France, Georgia, Haiti, Laos, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Paraguay and, most recently, Ukraine and Bangladesh.
The GABRIEL network serves to:
Enhance and harmonize research capabilities in developing countries through training and knowledge sharing
Conduct multi-center studies on infectious diseases that have a significant impact on public health and
Harmonize applied research methodologies by transferring technology and implementing quality assurance procedures.
At the regional level, Fondation Mérieux collaborates with local partners to improve the quality and capacity of in-country laboratory services and systems. In 2009, RESAOLAB was initiated to address the public health needs of West Africa and strengthen the clinical laboratory systems in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso. RESAOLAB members have created a robust network, resulting in the establishment of local training initiatives, quality assurance laboratories and disease surveillance programs for the region.
The network has been developed and supported to provide continuous training of personnel, quality assurance and epidemiologic surveillance, thereby enabling the harmonization of diagnostic practices and boosting access to accurate diagnostics.
In October 2013, RESAOLAB announced its expansion — made possible by continued support from the Agence Française de Développement and additional backing from the Islamic Development Bank, the International Cooperation of the Principality of Monaco and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation — to include four new West African countries whose health ministries have requested to join the network. In this second phase of the project, experienced health professionals from the three original member countries will provide on-site support and guidance to new members in Benin, Guinea, Niger and Togo.
RESAOLAB’s achievements include:
- Over 500 public and private laboratories in the network and under supervision in seven countries
- More than 800 lab technicians trained in over 100 training sessions
- 45 laboratories equipped with a laboratory information management system (LIMS) to support epidemiological surveillance
- A skills development program that includes 14 training modules
- Seven continuous training centers built or in the design phase in seven countries
- More than 200 laboratories with an external quality control program
Today, RESAOLAB is expanding its activities beyond francophone countries to establish a regional base for the program in West Africa.
Laboratory networking has moved from the bench to the internet with GLOBE, or Global Link for Online Biomedical Expertise. Fondation Mérieux established GLOBE as an online portal to strengthen knowledge sharing and expertise in infectious diseases throughout the world.
Through GLOBE, healthcare professionals and scientists have access to a range of tools, information and training modules to develop and strengthen the management, quality and operating procedures (testing, sampling, interpretation of results) in biomedical laboratories. The online portal increases the basic knowledge and use of specific tools required for epidemiologic studies, managing outbreaks as well as setting surveillance systems, and also enables members to exchange experiences in the practice of disease prevention and vaccination. For communities in remote locations and with limited access to resources, the GLOBE connection can provide information and expertise needed to prevent pandemics and slow the progression of disease outbreaks.