INRB inaugurates the Rodolphe Mérieux INRB-Goma Laboratory in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The inauguration of the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory INRB-Goma
The inauguration of the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory INRB-Goma

The National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB) inaugurated on Thursday, April 13, 2023, the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory INRB-Goma, a regional biosafety level BSL2/BSL3 public health laboratory, in Goma, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Minister of Health, Hygiene and Prevention of the DRC, Dr. Roger Kamba presided over the ceremony, which included Prof. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, Director General of the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB); General Ndima Kongba Constant, military governor of North Kivu; Dr. Daniel Mukadi, Regional Director of INRB Goma; Dr. Gilles Chaumentin, Regional Advisor for Global Health of the French Embassy in the DRC; Jean-Pierre Bosser, Director General of the Mérieux Foundation; Dr. Robert Sebbag, member of the Mérieux Foundation Board of Directors; and Dr. Florence Pradel, Manager of the Mérieux Foundation’s GABRIEL Network. Gathered at INRB in Goma, the group visited the laboratory.

As a regional public health laboratory, the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory INRB-Goma contributes to strengthening access to diagnosis for local populations. It participates in the surveillance and response to epidemic or potentially epidemic diseases, translational research and training of biomedical personnel and researchers from other laboratories in this low-income country. It is equipped with state-of-the-art technologies that meet the highest international standards of quality, biosafety, and biosecurity.

The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory INRB Goma infrastructure includes:

  • A BSL2 laboratory-container
  • A BSL3 laboratory-container
  • A refrigerated storage container
  • Two cold  storage units
  • A pathogen genomics laboratory
  • An immunology-serology laboratory
  • A clinical biology laboratory
  • A Bacteriology laboratory
  • A conventional PCR laboratory
  • An administrative building

“I would like to thank the President of the Mérieux Foundation, Alain Mérieux, for his trust and for this collaboration to raise our health system to a higher level,” said Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe. “I am also grateful to our partner, USAID, for the co-funding which made the project possible,” he added.

A state-of-the-art tool to fight infectious diseases

This project was born from the collaboration between INRB and the Mérieux Foundation with financial support from USAID, in response to the 10th Ebola virus disease outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

In July 2019, Prof. Muyembe-Tamfum, Director of INRB and winner of the 2015 Christophe Mérieux Prize, alerted the Mérieux Foundation’s President to the urgent need to increase diagnostic capacity to fight against the worst Ebola outbreak the country has ever seen, and the second largest epidemic recorded in the world.

In response to this alert, the Mérieux Foundation sent laboratory containers to the DRC by air in October 2019, with co-funding from USAID through a partnership with the Mérieux Foundation USA. Ownership of these facilities was given to the provincial branch of INRB, located in Goma. The laboratory also joined the GABRIEL Network in 2021.

To date, this Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory INRB-Goma contributes to the surveillance of pathologies such as: Ebola, Zaire and Sudan viruses, COVID-19, Rift Valley fever, plague, cholera, bacterial meningitis, monkey pox, Marburg virus disease, in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Haut-Uele. It is also the Next Generation Sequencing referral laboratory for Eastern DRC for pathogens such as Ebola, SARS-CoV-2, Monkeypox, poliovirus, Y. pestis, V. cholerae.

This laboratory is currently involved in several international studies with partners such as WHO, US CDC, Africa CDC, Washington State University, Johns Hopkins University, MSF, Epicentre, FIND, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Institute of Tropical Medicine-Antwerp. It works with the Mérieux Foundation and Mérieux Foundation USA as an implementing partner of the USAID Infectious Disease Detection & Surveillance (IDDS) project to strengthen disease detection networks and surveillance systems for diseases of public health importance.