LUNCH WITH THE FT: Christian Happi: ‘With pathogens, we need to play offence’
The scientist who helped beat Ebola in Nigeria on Africa’s success against Covid-19 — and his trailblazing plans to pre-empt future pandemics
I arrive at the dusty campus of Redeemer’s University in rural Osun state to meet Christian Happi, after a five-hour drive up through hardscrabble south-western Nigeria from Lagos. Behind the one-storey building that is currently home to the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases are plywood crates that once housed components for million-dollar Illumina gene sequencers.
It was here that Happi sequenced the first coronavirus samples in Sub-Saharan Africa, within days of its being diagnosed in Nigeria, and recently identified the SA variant’s first appearance in Africa’s most populous country. And this was merely the latest vital intervention against deadly disease by one of Africa’s leading scientists. He helped to sequence the Ebola genome in 2014 and was a key figure in Nigeria's successful quashing of an outbreak. His research has also greatly expanded our knowledge of Lassa fever, another haemorrhagic disease that kills thousands every year...