Dr C.K. Onwuamah
Innovation: Rapid COVID Testing
Chika Kingsley Onwuamah, B.Sc. (Zoology [Parasitology]); M.Sc. (Cell Biology and Genetics); PhD (Cell Biology and Genetics), is a Chief Research Scientist and the Team Lead, Population Genomics and Cancer Group, Centre for Human Virology and Genomics, at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research.
Since 2001, Dr Onwuamah has variously worked on helminthic infections, malaria, population genetics, genotoxicity, diagnostics development and HIV drug resistance. From 2006-2017, he coordinated quality control and assurance in Nigeria’s first ISO 15189:2012 accredited public laboratory.
He has received several awards, including NIMR’s pioneer Young Scientist award (2011), China CDC ModPad Plus Fellowship (2019), Emory-Nigeria Short-term Fellow (2019), and the NIMR Innovator’s Award (2019). During three-month research at China CDC Beijing, I developed multiplex isothermal assays diagnosing top ten pathogens causing febrile illness in children.
Furthermore, in three months and within the frenzied testing associated with the COVID-19 lockdown, I developed Nigeria’s SARS-CoV-2 Isothermal Molecular Assay (SIMA). SIMA has greater sensitivity and specificity than antigen and antibody tests. It yields results in 36 minutes. SIMA confirms the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2 and ascertains appropriate sample collection by detecting a human gene as an internal control. The coupled assay workflow is 5-10X cheaper than routine laboratory workflows. The assay workflow is mobile and field-deployable to low-level facilities to decentralise and increase access to testing. With minimal training, anyone can reliably operate the simplified workflow. For low to medium throughput, SIMA’s required equipment is minimal, scalable and packaged in sturdy field casings.
Dr Onwuamah is interested in “OMICS” research to understand host-pathogen-environment interrelationships amenable to developing sustainable health interventions.