ACEGID + Broad Institute | 2020

ACEGID + Broad Institute

A global surveillance network to stop the next pandemic before it starts

In 2018 and 2019, 42% of all deaths from outbreaks reported by the WHO were in West and Central Africa. Sentinel, an early-warning outbreak system, will save thousands of lives each year—and help us to avert future pandemics.

Relevant Stats

Paragraph introducing any relevant stats.

ACEGID scientists



Viral pandemics are one of the greatest risks to humanity. Despite taking giant leaps in technology and science, we are more vulnerable today than we were 100 years ago. As COVID-19 has made painfully obvious, viruses can travel farther and faster than ever, spreading across the globe in weeks, making the rapid detection and containment of diseases critical. Yet we currently have no systematic way of detecting and tracking outbreaks. Disease diagnostics and surveillance practices are outdated, and tests for many viruses do not exist, even in developed countries. The current global pandemic tragically corroborates a 2019 Global Health Security Index report, which found that across 195 countries, not a single one was fully prepared to handle an epidemic or pandemic. As a result, outbreaks are often only detected once too many people become ill, and this is typically too late to stop an epidemic.

Big Idea

The African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and partners, including Dimagi, Fathom, and MassDesign, have a bold plan to get ahead of pandemic outbreaks, by building and deploying Sentinel. This pandemic preemption system will not only detect viral threats in real time but help stop them before they spread. Sentinel will use a three-part approach to detect viruses, connect data systems, and empower the healthcare community, allowing us to respond to emerging viral threats in real time, wherever they arise. Using simple point-of-care tests and others that can simultaneously look for hundreds of different viruses, healthcare workers will be able to identify high priority viruses within an hour, any known human virus within a day, and previously unknown viruses within a week. Using mobile applications and advanced dashboards, this information will be shared across the public health community in real time.


Leveraging ultra-sensitive genomic and CRISPR technology, the ACEGID and Broad teams are developing powerful tests that can detect virtually any pathogen. For example, one test, SHERLOCK uses a simple paper strip to detect viruses, making it suitable for use in even the most remote areas with minimal equipment. Another test, CARMEN, requires a lab but can test for hundreds of known viruses simultaneously. Through the Audacious investment, the team will refine and mass-produce these products. In parallel, they will develop an information system to continuously collect, integrate, and share viral surveillance data, and empower the entire public health community - from frontline workers to national authorities - to deploy Sentinel first in West and Central Africa, then anywhere in the world. By unifying these tools into a coherent system, for the first time, we will be able to detect and prevent pandemics on the ground before they start.           

Why will this succeed?

ACEGID and Broad have implemented advanced technologies, data-sharing systems, and partner-based approaches to battling viral pathogens for more than a decade. They have consistently demonstrated the power of leading-edge tools, such as the use of ultrasensitive genomic technologies in the containment of diseases such as monkeypox, and yellow fever. They were at the forefront of the Ebola, Zika, and Lassa fever outbreaks. Their Sentinel partners Dimagi, Fathom, and MassDesign, are world-leaders in healthcare technology, data analytics and visualization, and architecture. The team is building trust to unite a wide range of collaborators, which they will leverage to deploy Sentinel first across West and Central Africa, and subsequently across the globe.

Project Impact

Recent Updates

Christian Happi Christian Happi


Bolstering Africa’s coronavirus detection efforts

Bolstering Africa’s coronavirus detection efforts

Molecular biologist Christian Happi is working around the clock to get testing available throughout the continent.

June 3, 2020

World Bank Blog

Pandemics know no borders: In Africa, regional collaboration is key to fighting COVID-19

Pandemics know no borders: In Africa, regional collaboration is key to fighting COVID-19

Recent experiences with Ebola are fresh in peoples’ minds across West and Central Africa, as are those with TB and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. As a result, African countries understand the need for regional coordination in overcoming public health challenges.

May 20, 2020

Submit your idea

Does your bold vision have the potential for far reaching social impact?

Learn if you qualify