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[NAIROBI] A lack of sound laboratory practices is hindering Africa's ability to develop new drugs and medical technology to combat disease, says a Kenyan scientist.

Lucy Irungu, head of the School of Biological and Physical sciences at Kenya's University of Nairobi said that the ability of African labs to produce quality data from experiments and safety testing is crucial for Africa to succeed in product development.

She was speaking at a workshop on good laboratory practices held at the university yesterday (24 October).

'Good laboratory practice' means ensuring that scientists collect credible and reliable experimental data — in particular, data used to assess the safety of a product to humans and the environment — by using the correct methodology in an appropriate environment and archiving it accurately.

In an era of international, multi-centred research projects, data from one lab must be directly comparable to that from another, said Irungu.

Laboratories that comply with good practice standards, she said, make auditing of research activities and authentication of findings much easier, thereby fast-tracking product development. 

Andrew Walubo, Africa region coordinator for the WHO and Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) Good Laboratory Practice Network, called for national authorities to monitor and ensure international standards are attained in laboratories across Africa.

"There are no good laboratory practice compliant laboratories in Africa, so multinational pharmaceutical companies do not trust standards in Africa," he told SciDev.Net.

Africa is lagging behind in product development, said Deborah Kioy, pre-clinical coordinator at the TDR. "We have many good scientists but they lack labs that meet international standards," she said.

Kioy added that the few labs that are moving towards meeting the standards — such as the Nairobi-based Kenya Medical Research Institute and Institute of Primate Research — must be given assistance.

The TDR organised the three-day workshop, bringing together participants from diverse backgrounds, including biological and clinical sciences, mathematics and computer science.