Christian Happi

Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics

Christian Happi

Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics

Biography

Christian Happi
Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics
Director of the World Bank funded African Center of Excellence for Genomics of infectious Diseases (ACEGID)
Redeemer’s University,
Ede, Osun State, Nigeria.

Professor Happi’s research focus is on genomics of infectious diseases (Malaria, Lassa fever, Ebola Virus Disease, HIV) and Human genomics. He diagnosed the first case of Ebola virus disease in Nigeria in 2014 and worked closely with Nigerian health authorities for the successful containment of the recent Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. Christian Happi is a major contributor in the 1000 Genome project and the reference genetics variations of the human genome.

He has received several prestigious International Awards including the Merle Sande Health Leadership Award, in recognition of his outstanding contributions in applying genomics knowledge in addressing major infectious diseases challenges in Africa. Christian Happi is co-author to more than 160 peer reviewed scientific publications.

Title of the talk: Genomic Surveillance and Characterization of Microbial Threats in West Africa

Recent viral outbreaks have highlighted vulnerabilities in African public health systems and the need to greatly expand our ability to rapidly identify and stop these threats. The 2013-16 Ebola outbreak took many months to detect, and it expanded in part due to the lack of local diagnosis. Similarly, despite yearly outbreaks, few places can diagnose Lassa virus infection, and much needs to be learned about Lassa’s genetic diversity, expanse, and biology. Our knowledge of the clinical course and pathophysiology of both viruses is also far too limited. Beyond known agents, many more viruses are circulating undetected. Febrile illnesses are among the most common causes of morbidity and mortality in tropical developing countries, and they are a devastating burden to the African continent.

Advances in genomic technologies have revolutionized biomedical research, and created the potential to transform the clinical care, surveillance, and understanding of infectious diseases. With genome sequencing now available in some African countries, researchers can rapidly test for a wide array of known and novel microbes simultaneously. We can then incorporate this information into field deployable tools to help local clinicians and prevent outbreaks from escalating. These new developments lay the groundwork to pursue key scientific questions about the pathophysiology, epidemiology, evolution, and biology of the microbes causing disease.

Building upon a long-term partnership between major academic and clinical centers in West Africa, we have established the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease (ACEGID), a platform that is training the next generation of African genomic scientists and contributing to our understanding of circulating threats and to outbreak response. We have led work to enable Lassa and Ebola diagnosis and characterize their genetic diversity and clinical features. We have established massively-parallel sequencing platforms in Nigeria and Senegal (and soon in Sierra Leone), using it to identify novel circulating viruses and investigate viral outbreaks.