Biological diagnosis is the first stage in providing efficient patient care, as well as playing a key role in the surveillance and control of epidemics, as the health crisis of 2020 so brutally reminded us. By reinforcing capacity for biological diagnosis, the Mérieux Foundation provides material, human and structural support, with the aim of guaranteeing a strong network of laboratories in countries with limited resources.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Mérieux Foundation has been committed to improving access to biological diagnosis, firstly in Mali and Cambodia and then in Madagascar, Laos, and, today in more than 20 countries. This area of work is the Foundation’s main activity and helps to establish high-quality laboratories, involved in diagnostic testing, surveillance for infectious diseases and the fight against antimicrobial resistance. In 2020, these laboratories proved capable of dealing with the crisis and absorbing the increase in diagnosis capacity required to deal with COVID-19.
Operational expertise in laboratory design and renovation
The Mérieux Foundation has developed solid expertise in strengthening laboratory infrastructure and is involved in many construction or renovation projects in collaboration with local authorities, associations, and national and international institutions.
As well as creating the environments needed for biological testing (infrastructure, equipment, IT systems, waste management, etc.), the Foundation focuses on developing the skills of laboratory personnel to optimize the potential of these facilities. It also supports the management and efficiency of laboratories to guarantee their autonomy and their key role in healthcare systems. The Foundation also works alongside national health authorities to contribute towards the consolidation of laboratory systems in order to maximize the impact of laboratory activities on public health.
2020, a year of acceleration
The year 2020 highlighted the key role played by biological diagnosis, as illustrated by the WHO director general’s “test, test, test” slogan at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was disrupting treatment facilities even in countries whose healthcare systems are among the most robust in the world. It was also a year in which the term PCR* test became widely used and these tests became democratized in developing countries, where their introduction was still in its infancy.
In this way, several of our projects supporting diagnostics found themselves at the heart of the fight against COVID-19 in 2020, and benefited from additional funding granted by our partners (see the article on COVID-19 on page 8). This significant effort in the name of COVID-19 also led to a general strengthening of laboratory capacity. At the same time, the Foundation’s teams made every effort to ensure the continuity of ongoing projects, including access to laboratory services to monitor people living with HIV and for tuberculosis treatment.
*PCR molecular diagnostic technique: Polymerase Chain Reaction