The daunting task of DNA services

As I take the lift for a scheduled interview I keep asking myself what Africa Biosystems Limited does.
I had been briefed by my editor but I am anxious to know what happens at this company that towers above Kampala on the 11th floor of Diamond Trust building.
First forward, it is now 1pm and I am ushered into a room where the company’s three people, including Janmohamed Verjee, a director, Ms Yasmin Verjee, managing director, and Leonard Bagenda, the Field applications specialist of Africa Biosystems Uganda, will be letting me in on how the company started, its operations, challenges and future prospects.
Africa Biosystems Uganda is a subsidiary of Africa Biosystems Limited, which has headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
It is part of Life sciences a brand of Thermo Fisher Scientific a world leader in Life sciences Technology and among the Fortune 100 companies in America.
Africa Biosystems Limited was formed in 1999 but was this year extended to Uganda to distribute as well as offer services related to Life Sciences Technologies and Thermo Fisher scientific including but not limited to aanced DNA technologies.
The company’s main activities include offering products, services and support in Forensics including human identification, crime scene investigation, food security and testing including technology support in GMO testing and environmental analysis among others.
It is also involved in the distribution of equipment such as genetic analyzers for DNA profiling and sequencing and real time machines for gene expression studies, among others.

How it started
“We started in a small room with one chair and a computer,” says Mr Verjee, adding: “But after some time a South African company contacted us to work on a certain project, which earned us about $40,000 annually.”
“We quit our small room and expanded into a spacious offices, where we currently employ more than 20 people,” he adds.
According to Mr Verjee, they started the company on the inspiration that everything living has DNA and a vest amount of information can be derived from analysing DNA of a given organism.
“Look at everything. There is a DNA element somewhere and with technology it is becoming everything,” says Mr Verjee.
“Initially, we were active in Nairobi until we had customers here (Uganda). This is why we decided to open here,” he adds.
The company’s core existence is enshrined in the increasing focus of real time research and investigations in human, animal and plant life with technologies that offer greater precision and answer. “it took 13 years to complete the Human Genome Project, we can do the same work in less than six months using next generation sequencing,” emphasizes Bagenda.
“We were inspired by the need to eliminate diseases that have become so severe among humans plants and animals. There is no reason as to why samples are taken to America, South Africa or Kenya for investigation,” Mr Verjeehe adds.
“Getting results of any infection, which previously could take a week or two can now be done in about 30 or 40 minutes.”

How they operate
According to Yasmin Verjee, the company works in coordination with the Life Sciences Group to provide world class equipment for conducting human identification as well as detecting infectious diseases such as Ebola.
“We have just begun here [Uganda] and we are still observing everything because projects such as this one take long to give results,” she says.
Ms Yasmin Verjee has a strong conviction that the world needs to take science serious as well as giving special attention to everything that revolves around science life.

The business
According to Bagenda the company has a number of clients including government institutions, Research centers, hospitals, and higher institutions of learning and private medical and diagnostic centers.
“Currently, we are working with African Orphan Crops Consortium looking at increasing food security in Africa. We provide technical support, research in disease outbreaks in plants, criminology, data basing and DNA,” he says.


Africa Biosystems has had some good achievements and worn a number of service awards but the most outstanding is when it was last year ranked 26th among Kenya’s Top 100 mid-sized companies in Nairobi.
“To us this was a milestone that has given us a platform to continue on a growth trajectory,” Yasmin Verjee says.
“We have not had many challenges. Sometimes we have used situations that people see as challenges as opportunities to work on new things,” says Mr Verjee.

Future prospects

“We hope to replicate the success we have had in Kenya and take research and investigations in life sciences to new heights. There is no longer need to ship any sample out for aanced investigation because we can provide the same technologies here,” says Leonard Baganda, the sales and field applications specialist at Africa Biosystems Uganda Limited.
“We just need to identify a partner(s) and together we shall form an institution which can make a centre of excellence in the fields of Molecular diagnostics and Research,” says Ms Yasmin Verjee.
They are in the process of opening operational offices in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

Is a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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