Following the identification of the first Covid-19 case in Morocco back in early March, the American Moroccan Competencies Network (AMCN) set up a special committee “Covid-19 Task Force” composed of competencies with key expertise in areas necessary to complement the already existing efforts locally in Morocco to fight this global pandemic.
AMCN’s Covid-19 Task Force identified key areas in which our members
can have an immediate impact and help ease the consequences that this
pandemic could potentially have on Moroccans both in the U.S. and in
Morocco. The members of the task force are AMCN members with expertise
in the following areas:
- 1. Medical and Biomedical research
- 2. Engineering (mechanical, electrical and design to mention only a few)
- 3. Information Technology and E-learning
- 4. Academic Research and Grant Writing to seek funding from USA and other funding institutions designed for Covid-19 vaccine development and fast track design of medical protective equipment and devices.
- 5. Covid-19 related education and awareness, designated for community outreach
Covid-19 Task Force Members
Covid-19 Task Force Projects
In the context of Morocco’s fight against covid-19, AMCN partnered with institutions, individuals, and associations in Morocco to launch a number of initiatives where we act as subject matter experts (SMEs), process designers, financial supporters, and idea generators. The following are the main areas in which we have active projects.
1. Medical staff and hospitals support
a. Ventilator assembly and respirator repair labs
AMCN partnered with FabLab Casablanca, University Mohamed 1er in Oujda, University Hassan II, and Nextronic to design a low-cost ventilator that can be supplied to hospitals in Morocco. The first prototype has been built with the guidance of AMCN’s members in the medical, process management, biomedical, information technology, and mechanical engineering fields. Open source models from MIT and Medtronics were also provided to our partners in Morocco. The prototype is scheduled to be fully tested in animals according to FDA and Moroccan legislative and overseeing bodies before beginning testing in Humans and the production phase.
b. Medical Face shields and disinfection stations production
Following the successful design and production of face shields (visières) for the medical staff in Casablanca and Rabat, AMCN partnered with Fablab Casablanca, MadNess and Frigal Collectif to make this a nationwide effort. We contacted the University of Mohamed 1er in Oujda to form a partnership with them and ask that they join efforts with AMCN and Fablab Casa for the purpose of producing face shields, disinfection stations, and other tools needed by the medical staff in the eastern region of the kingdom. Within days, these collaborative efforts led to doubling in capacity and production. In this regard, we and our partners in Morocco are actively looking for industrial partners in Morocco to scale up production to levels sufficient to respond to needs at the national level. Currently, an average of 1600 face shields are produced daily in Casablanca to supply hospitals nationwide and another 200 daily produced in Oujda to supply the eastern region of Morocco. Note that our partners in Morocco were approached for help and collaboration by teams in Africa particularly Senegal.
Below is the official letter of partnership with the University Mohamed Premier in Oujda. All these efforts were expedited and the process was fast given the challenges and unusual circumstances. Examples of the production of face shields in Oujda are shown below.
c. Awareness and medical advice
AMCN kicked-off the initiative of collecting non-functioning ventilators from the regional hospitals and sending them to our network of labs and engineering schools for repairs. This effort came as a result of Dr. Karim Touijer, Chair of AMCN’s Medical committee, supplying the team in Casablanca with a non-functioning ventilator for reverse engineering purposes. Surprisingly, our partners were able to actually fix the machines in less than 24 hours. Therefore, AMCN decided to launch a nationwide call to send non-functional ventilators for repair to our partner labs in Morocco. The next step is to partner with the Ministry of Health in Morocco to support this initiative and authorize the public hospitals and private clinics to provide our local partners with access to non-functional ventilators for repair at the national level. AMCN was the first to have proposed this approach which could make several nonfunctioning ventilators ready to use within days. One of the advantages of this strategy is a rapid turnover of a technology that is readily functional and offers sophisticated features that otherwise basic ventilators may lack. The same concept could also be applied to other medical equipment in use in critical care that may be defective and not currently in use. In partnership with the Ministry of interior, we were able to locate 50 machines in Casablanca, Rabat, and El Jadida. These machines will be routed to the Fablab in Casablanca for repair. More machines will be located in the rest of the kingdom in the coming days.
2. Awareness and medical advice:
AMCN recorded a series of educational videos in Arabic/darija with our American Moroccan doctors and medical scientists, covering the frequently asked questions around Covid-19 in a simplified language that the general public can understand. These videos are published on our social media and shared with our Moroccan partners in Morocco. In addition to the video series, AMCN members have been guests at MFM radio to talk about these efforts and to highlight AMCN’s availability to help and partner with local organizations, to the general public in Morocco. These are some examples of the recorded Radio talks about AMCN/Covid-19 task force:
3. Covid-19 rapid testing and screening
In partnership with the University Mohamed 6 Polytechnique(UMP6) at Ben Guerir, AMCN dispatched one of our experts in pathogen screening, Dr Kamal EL-Bissati to UMP6 in February 2019 to set up a program in virology and screening for Covid19. During his only 1 month of attending the UM6P at Benguerir as a Professor Affiliate and following the outbreak of COVID19, Dr. El Bissati approached UM6P to share his vision on how Moroccan should be proactive. Such an outbreak became common during the last decades with exotic names (ZIKA, SARS, MERS, COVID). Thus, he suggests the implementation of a coalition composed of Moroccans from inside and outside the country with different expertise on vaccines, rapid tests, large data, bioinformatics, etc with the mission to develop this savoir-faire for the service of Morocco in response to pandemic. Dr. El Bissati was the Methodologist PI for such a coalition that was created and later called “Coalition d’Innovation et de Preparation aux Épidémies au Maroc” (CIPEM). Because of his expertise in this field, specifically on vaccination (holds 5 US patents on vaccines against malaria and toxoplasmosis), and rapid tests (holds 1US patent on whole blood rapid test for toxoplasma antibodies), Dr. El Bissati approached UM6P and OCP for funding for the use of these technologies against COVID. The most urgent request to OCP, was an invitation to partner with Ycocedron for making a vaccine against COVID. He contacted the director of INH, Rabat, who supports this action. Such a move would have a huge visibility for UM6P and Morocco to make an impact with big companies and universities in the world.
4. Grant writing
The grant writing team is focused on identifying grant opportunities in the U.S. and Morocco and drafting applications to financially support the projects that we initiated. The grant committee is led by Moroccan highly skilled grant writers, and academics that have countless years of experience in securing multimillion dollar grants from highly regarded institutions such as the National Institute of health..In this regard, AMCN is offering this skillset to our moroccan colleagues to apply for COVID19 response grants at the national and international level.
5. Scientific research and development (R&D)
Dr. Kamal El Bissati, in coordination with AMCN’s Covid-19 task force, is actively working on vaccine research and looking into rapid testing as an alternative testing method for Morocco. He is currently in Benguerir, partnering with Moroccan institutions like UM6P and OCP to provide his scientific expertise in the field of pandemics sciences and rapid diagnosis testing.
6. E-Learning in Morocco
The goal of this sub-committee is to support Morocco with its transition to homeschooling or online education. E-learning platforms are scarce in Morocco and many institutions do not have access to basic tools to make sure their students stay engaged and take their quizzes and exams online. The committee is led by Dr. Amine Chigani and Yazid Boutjdir, both managers at AWS (AMAZON WEB SERVICES). Through this committee, we aim to provide the technical support needed and build a low-cost e-learning platform that can be used within the public educational institutions that do not have the financial and technical means to procure such tools.