Sena Institute of Technology
A Decade of Resilience (2009 – 2019)
In 2009, Mr. Michael Agbleke and Dr. Kwasi Agbleke embarked on an ambitious project to build the first private nonprofit research center dedicated to fundamental science in Ghana. Our premise was to develop an Afrocentric institute in Ghana. It was a high risk project especially with no financial support from external donors. Like all projects we started with a strategy and milestones that have made the journey worthwhile. We have achieved many of these milestones and are on track with our main aim to develop the Sena Institute of Technology (SIT) into a leading Afrocentric institute.
Early in the development of SIT we invited a team of advisors to guide us through the process of establishing strong roots for the institute. It is through their guidance that we have been able to make significant strides over the past 4 years. Our first advisor was Dr. Tom Broker from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He believed in us from the very beginning when Dr. Agbleke was a graduate student at the same university. He helped us frame our strategy and efforts to get SIT going. Over the years we have met advisors who have made the journey easier on us. We are grateful for their immense support, guidance and commitment to science especially within Ghana.
Thank you for the phenomenal work we have done together us and the time that you have dedicated to SIT.
We will now walk you through the progress of Sena Institute of Technology over the decade and highlight our plans for the future for Ghana and the continent. The work that you are about to read has been funded by Dr. Kwasi Agbleke and we entreat you to join him in this vision by making a contribution to the institute. A cash donation ensures that all of your donation amount goes to SIT.
2009 – 2011
We acquired our first acreages of land in Penyi (Southern Ghana) in 2009 and a second acreages of land at Kpandai (Northern Ghana) in 2011. We chose the countryside because it empowers the local community and provides an avenue to work closer with the community.
2011 – 2017
The next task was to put up a simple but functioning center that will encompass our vision. We realized early on that the work of an institution goes beyond its walls. We believe it is cost effective to begin small and build the necessary human capacity around it. So we started with the construction of our headquarters in Penyi. This was a 6-room complex with laboratories for research, a library that should be accessible to the community and an Art gallery for African artists.
Brick by brick we built the institute over the many years…… Below are some pictures.
2016 was a perfect time to register Sena Institute of Technology in Ghana as a private non-profit research institute. Our building was almost complete and our hopes were high. We could actually see the dream transforming into reality. At this moment we decided to make our next moves. First was forming an administrative board in Ghana. Second was constituting a board of advisors to guide us through the rest of the infrastructure development and starting SIT programs. We recruited talented individuals who share in our mission to join the advisory board. The advisory board was quickly put to task reviewing our quarterly milestones and progress reports.
This year, we finally completed our headquarters, which comprised laboratory spaces, a library, art exhibition center and an administrative office. Next we connected electricity, water and sewage to the facility. One major activity that year was shipping and stocking our inventories. We shipped tonnes of office and laboratory supplies, equipment and a standby generator to Ghana. In all we made 7 shipments alone that year. While Michael was busy completing the building and connecting the utilities, I was shipping tonnes of supplies to him to install at the institute. It was a very busy and fun year for us. Most donations were through Harvard University and Dr. Agbleke’s personal purchases.
We also decided to organize our first chromosome conference in Ghana. However, we had to postpone and re-strategize the project due to financial constraints in hosting it by ourselves. At the end we decided to partner with an international collaborator to maintain the quality that we expect from such a conference.
Setting up functional units within the institute
Stakeholders and staff meeting
The SIT team met with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Chiefs, the District Health Directorate, the District Education Directorate, Headmasters at the district high schools and University faculties at multiple universities in Ghana. The aim was to connect with national and local stakeholders to discuss potential projects and seek areas of collaborations. Our team received overwhelming support from stakeholders.
In consultation with stakeholders we initiated three projects. The first project was to develop a sustainable source of reagents to high school students to enable them do basic research. Also, we envisage the project will serve as a training course for high school students. Secondly, we started a digital herbarium database to support the community and food security within the region. We can document local crops and fauna, their uses as food or medicine and save seeds for preservation. And thirdly, we started a 3D prosthetic leg project with Jordan Elevons. This project resulted from our discussions about the increased motorcycle accident rates in the district and the increased amputation rate in the country.
2019 was primarily focused on developing and strengthening our programs. We started the year with a foundation in the USA to raise funds for the institute. This is a 501C3 nonprofit corporation (EIN # 83-3023837) under Chapter 180 of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, USA. Donors are able to make tax deductions for donations to the institute. Next, we launched a fundraising campaign with the slogan “Together, we build“.
Lecture series: 3D Printing
We expanded our prosthetic project into a fab lab in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Fab Lab network. We also started a collaboration with The Brother Tarcisius Prosthetics And Orthotics Training College (BTPOTC), Adoagyiri-Nsawam, Ghana. As part of our collaboration we started a lecture series to train staff and students of BTPOTC in 3D printing and design. Mr. Jordan Elevons is the course instructor.
Lecture series: Agriculture
We started a second lecture series in Agriculture in Ghana to train SIT staff on emerging technologies in farming. A local farmer in Boston, Mr. Hannan, gave in-depth training on budgeting in farming, land management and advise on growing multiple crops on limited farmlands. Our goal is to encourage farmers to adopt crop rotation, growing variety of crops and introduce new crops to the region.
Seminar Series: Place-based resilience
While these lecture series were ongoing we partnered with Earthos Institute (Boston) and Art Centar Gracanica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to organize monthly seminars in Boston on building placed-based resilience. Through this partnership we share ideas about our various organizations and missions with the general public.
Conference Partnership with FASEB
We reached out to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology to organize a conference in Ghana dubbed “Imaging Cellular and Chromosome Dynamics” from October 31- November 4, 2021. The conference will focus on emerging technologies in molecular Biology and bring African Scientist to par with state of the art technologies. We are excited to pioneer such a conference in Ghana. The conference is co-hosted with Dr. Kwasi Agbleke (SIT and Harvard University), Dr. Andrew Seeber (Harvard University) and Prof. Tom Broker (University of Alabama at Birmingham). The website is coming up soon.
I met Dr. Richard Roberts from New England Biolabs in 2019. Dr. Roberts was Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board at New England Biolabs from 1974 to 1992 when he joined them full time. He is now the Chief Scientific Officer. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1993 for his contribution to the discovery of introns in eukaryotic DNA and the mechanism of gene-splicing. His current research interests focus on enzyme discovery using bioinformatics, combined with the experimental testing of function. His main responsibilities at NEB are to guide research and set the scientific goals for the company. Rich often gives lectures and presentations worldwide and investigates potential opportunities for both scientific and commercial collaborations.
Dr. Roberts has been providing valuable advice and support for the Institute. He is assisting us in building collaborations and partnerships across academia and industries; and strengthening our research efforts.
After a decade of infrastructure development we are happy to realize the dream. The institute headquarters now has an administrative office, a library, Art/Cultural center and laboratory spaces. We have also been able to connect the building to electricity, water, internet and sewage. Finally, the facility is equipped with basic equipment to perform basic research.
These facilities enable us to do basic fundamental work, train students and organize workshops to train the community on best agricultural practices. Also, the fab lab concept will enable the public to use our facility to prototype their ideas and empower them to transform these ideas into a reality.
Find below are our research logistics.
- White Boards
- Bulletin Boards
- Laser Printer
- Zeiss Fluorescence Microscope
- Widefield microscope
- PCR Machine
- Electrocell manipulator
- Gel electrophoresis units
- UV gel imaging units
- Western blots system
- Laboratory benches
- Deep freezers
- Ice maker
- Centrifuges (15 ml and 50 ml)
- Water bath
- Ice chests
- Magnetic stirrer
- pH meter
- Peristaltic pumps
- Vacuum pumps
- Glassware (Flasks and Cylinders)
- Cell culture plates
- Ender 5 3D printer
- Tinkerine Ditto 3D printer
- Table saw workstation
- Assortment of handheld tools
Major Funding Source:
Dr. Kwasi Agbleke
Other funding sources:
Family and Friends
Harvard University Sustainability Program
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
2020 and Beyond
Please donate generously to support our programs for 2021. The work you just read demonstrate our commitment to science and the perseverance to achieve our set goals. These projects were made possible through the generous funding support from the founder, Dr. Kwasi Agbleke and we hope you will be inspired to be part of Sena Institute of Technology next chapter.
Your donation will
- Enable us to switch to 100% renewable energy for 2021.
- Get our home-developed laboratory grade reagents to students in Ghana who need them.
- Increase access to training programs for high school and undergraduate students within our community.
- Organize seminars and conferences within Africa on capacity building and emerging technologies.
- Empower local farmers to grow more diverse crops and encourage adoption of local crops in our cuisines.
- Provide customizable prosthetic legs to disabled kids.
- Provide an avenue for the general public to participate in science and transform their ideas to reality.
Solar Panel Installation
Please donate to support this initiative for a greener laboratory space.
- Develop our Molecular Biology research efforts. We currently have a -80 degree freezer and yet have been unable to install it for the past 1 year because we cannot afford the associated power bills and the frequent power outages which will destroy stored cells.
- Start training programs for hands-on research experiences for high school and undergraduate students.
- Develop our fab lab concept to create an opportunity for the youth to pilot their ideas at the institute
Our primary target for 2021 is to get our laboratory grade low-cost culture media in every high school, tertiary institution and hospital in Ghana. This project will empower high school students especially to receive adequate hands-on laboratory training in bacterial genetics and physiology. Secondly, we will start our microscopy and imaging research work on chromosome dynamics in bacteria. Finally, our own repository, the Sub-Saharan African Genome Repository (SSAGR) will begin to distribute strains to our colleagues in the region and support research efforts in Ghana.
About a year and half ago we embarked on a mission to develop a 3D prosthetic leg for amputees in our community. It is our goal to get the first prototype testing in Ghana by summer 2021. With our partnership with The Brother Tarcisius Prosthetics And Orthotics Training College (BTPOTC), Adoagyiri-Nsawam, Ghana, we hope to get our first trial underway soon. Please donate here to support our fab lab and the Sena Leg project.
SIT has been committed to students training and research capacity development within Ghana. Key programs to kick-off includes:
- High School Training Programs
- University Training Programs
Food security is an imminent threat to sub-saharan Africa. With the eherbarium project our goal is to provide resources to secure food for the future. Key elements of the eherbarium project include:
- Plant Herbarium database to document existing crops and their uses.
- Seed bank to preserve seeds for future planting across the region.
- Nutrient profiling of local crops to promote their adoption in local and international cuisines.
- Herbal medicine – documents plants used for treating ailments in the country.
Art and Cultural center
The art center will continue to document local crafts and arts. We hope in the near future to organize our first exhibit highlighting local arts, crafts and historic artifacts. We look forward to inviting you all to Ghana for the exhibition.
The library will also serve as a training facility for high school students and university graduates. Also, we will continue to make our library resources available to residents of Penyi-Dzodze areas and its neighboring communities.
The work that you have read has been made possible through efforts from Mr. Michael Agbleke, Dr. Kwasi Agbleke, the Agbleke family, a team of dedicated advisors and friends. The institute has been funded by Dr. Agbleke’s personal contributions to SIT. We entreat you to join us in this vision by making a contribution to the institute. A cash donation ensures that all of your donation goes to SIT.