About MRC-ET Advanced Laboratory.
MRC-ET Advanced Laboratory: a molecular diagnostic research laboratory / center in Ethiopia Established in 2012 GC and became operational in 2014 GC
Company name: MRC-ET Advanced Laboratory
MRC-ET is an affiliate of MRC Holland; a Netherlands based Biotechnology Company, which is specialized in production and supply of a proprietary product, MLPA® kits and an assortment of materials needed in a molecular biology facility. The kits, produced by MRC-Holland, are primarily used as diagnostic tools and/or for research purposes, for genetic screening of diverse hereditary disorders and syndromes as well as diseases/conditions that may result as a consequence of various changes in the human genome. MRC cooperates with research labs and biotechnology companies worldwide in development of new MLPA® kits.
Aims and objectives:
- Introduce a simple and cost efficient genetic screening technique
- Promote and introduce MLPA® kits as diagnostic and research tools
- Explore, through research and development, prevalent hereditary diseases in the population and develop detection methods
- Provide graduate and post graduate level advanced training in molecular diagnostics and recent advances in molecular biological techniques.
- Prepare annual publication to disseminate the technology and the findings in collaboration with stakeholders.
Brief description of the MLPA® technology: It is well established that deleterious mutations/changes in the basic human genetic material, DNA and RNA, result in various diseases, disorders and syndromes. Advances in molecular biology technology have opened a wide range of possibilities in understanding the mechanisms that underlie these changes and various ways of detecting them. Multiplex Ligation dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA®) is a method that can detect various genetic alterations whether they are caused by copy number changes of genes or chromosomes, amplifications and deletions of large number of genes, point mutations, and changes in subtelomeric regions. MLPA® can detect changes in up to 50 nucleic acids sequences in one simple reaction. MLPA® quickly identifies amplifications and deletions of a large number of genes and can be used for DNA and mRNA profiling of both blood and tumor-derived samples. Furthermore, the MLPA® method can also be used to quantify CpG-methylation patterns (MS-MLPA®). MLPA® has rapidly established its reputation as a trustworthy and efficient method. Hundreds of publications about the technique have appeared since its introduction in 2002, and MLPA® is now used in more than 900 labs worldwide. Some of the applications of MLPA® kits used in detecting various syndromes and diseases are:
- Prenatal and postnatal screening of syndromes such as Down, Edwards, Patau, DiGeorge…
- Hereditary cancer such as breast cancer, Ataxia telangiectasia, colon cancer, fanconi anemia…
- Pharmacogenetics products for DPYD deficiency and TPMT.
- Tumor analysis products for breast, ovarian, cervical tumors…
Molecular diagnostics is an unexplored area in the Ethiopian health system. Survey and research of diseases that are genetically linked through inheritance and various genomic changes is almost nonexistent. However, various pre and post-natal syndromes and hereditary cancers are becoming serious health problem and they should be tackled adequately. The need to identify the causes of these diseases using early diagnostic methods and conducting surveys and research to determine their prevalence and devise means of prevention and cure is undoubtedly clear. The molecular diagnostics research lab/center therefore provides the best opportunity to find solutions to these and more health related problems.
MRC-ET aims to serve: the general public, public and private hospitals, other health institutions, academic centers such as universities and colleges and NGOs involved in health related investigations or programs.
- The company will perform genetic screening on patients’ samples using MLPA® kits.
- It will promote and market the MLPA® kits to laboratories and medical institutions in Sub Saharan Africa as a representative of MRC-Holland.
- It will be engaged in various research and teaching activities. It will also develop genetic tools for genetic survey in the population.
- Introduce and promote state of the art molecular biological methods, equipment, reagents and medical appliances.
MRC-ET’s primary strategy is communicating the message to hospitals and teaching institutions by providing demonstrative lectures. We will also engage these institutions and other health related NGOs such as WHO in research based investigations that will be developed as population surveys on critical health issues.
MRC-ET is headed by Dr. Zewdu Terefework. Dr. Zewdu received his M.Sc. and PhD from the department of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology at the University of Helsinki. He also holds a number of certificates on genomic medicine, genomic technologies in clinical diagnostics and clinical bioinformatics. He has worked at the same university for several years as an instructor and a senior researcher in EU and Academy of Finland funded projects. For three and a half years he has worked as a post-doctoral researcher in a molecular biology and cell physiology lab at the Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and MRC-Holland, the Netherlands, where he developed MLPA diagnostic kit for identification and relative quantification of oral bacteria. Prior to his return to Ethiopia he has been working as a senior scientist at MRC-Holland where he developed an in-house protocol for STR analysis for forensic purposes, and worked on development of MLPA kits for tropical diseases and human genetic diseases. He has published several research articles in peer reviewed international scientific journals and contributed chapters in books. He has presented his findings in several international conferences.
Currently there are four laboratory technologists and technicians that are outsourced from Ethiopia and received an in-house training on the MLPA technology and other molecular biological techniques.
Since molecular diagnostics, specially genetic testing, is not well developed in Ethiopia, the OECD guideline for genetic testing is currently used as a blueprint in developing standards for tests, report of results for clinical application and training and qualification required by personnel.
Overview of activities to date
Since its establishment in 2012 and the subsequent commencement of its service in 2014, MRC-ET has been primarily engaged in providing genetic testing services. Our clients and/or patients, more than 1500 patients so far, came from leading teaching and referral hospitals (both public and private), higher and specialized OBGYN, Pediatric and Neurology clinics from all over Ethiopia. Our laboratory also provides basic and routine clinical tests in the areas of hematology, clinical chemistry, electrolyte analysis and microbiology. A more detailed information about the laboratory and the services it provide are available at our website www.mrc-et.com
Besides providing diagnostic services we avail our facility and expertise for research and apprenticeship to researchers and students coming from universities and teaching hospitals in the country. We have participated in research endeavors that pertain towards a completion of masters and PhD theses. A research proposal, developed in cooperation with Addis Ababa University (AAU) Medical faculty, on developing an RT-PCR based malaria assay has got the acceptance of the ethics committee and proceeding with success. Another proposal on lactose intolerance diagnosis using DNA based method is in progress and the preliminary study is already completed by our partner MRC-Holland. The validation experiments will be carried out at MRC-ET facility in collaboration with Myunsung Christian Medical College aka the Korea hospital. An RT-PCR assay, for identification of Leptospira sp. is developed by MRC-Holland, and a research on water and urine samples collected from Addis and surrounding is being conducted by a Dutch physician scientist in collaboration with AAU.
The concept of genetic testing and DNA based diagnostics is continuously introduced to Ethiopian professionals in the medical community by providing state of the art lectures and presentations in different venues: annual conferences of EMA, EPHA, EPHLA, EMLA and medical societies such as Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologisits (ESOG) and Ethiopian Pediatrics Society (EPS), as well as on several scheduled occasions/morning sessions of different hospitals in Addis Ababa. The awareness creating activity extends beyond the medical professionals to the public at large using various media including appearances on health related programs on TV (EBC and EBS)and radio interviews (Radio Fana, Sheger FM, Zami 97, Ahadu Radio).
Currently there is no lab that employs the DNA technology and performs forensic tests which include the frequently requested paternity testing. Samples are sent abroad and this puts strain on the country’s foreign currency reserve. We are in the process of acquiring a new state of the art genetic analyzer which can be used for forensic purposes including paternity testing.
The company was established with an initial capital of 6.5 million birr and during the process of setting it up an additional 0.5 million birr is invested on it.
The company premises are located in Gerji area near Kadisco hospital. MRC-ET operates in a rented building which is a stand-alone G+2 house plus service quarters that sit in a 285m2 compound. The premises were approved by FMHACA inspectors prior to the commencement of operation. The lab have been appraised by FMHACA every year and issued with the highest standard green certificate. The laboratory has also built its own incinerator, based on a prototype developed by Leicester University UK, specially designed for small and medium sized laboratories in developing countries. The FMHACA inspectors have commented on its use in other labs in the country.