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Uganda Virus Research Institute

REPUBLIC OF UGANDA

MUII Plus

MUII-PLUS

Who we are

The Makerere University – Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) Centre of Excellence for Infection & Immunity Research and Training (MUII-plus) is a collaborative capacity-building and research programme supporting excellence in Infection and Immunity. Based at the UVRI campus in Entebbe, Uganda, the Centre is a partnership between Uganda’s leading health research institute (the Uganda Virus Research Institute, UVRI) and Makerere University, the country’s oldest University and one of Africa’s most prestigious; supported by world-leading external collaborators the University of Cambridge, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and many others.

Our vision

Our vision is Africa leading advances in Infection and Immunity research, with transformative impact on African health.

Objectives

Our objectives are to

  1. Promote Africa-relevant Infection & Immunity (I&I) scientific excellence by building a virtual Centre comprising senior Ugandan I&I scientists and young, emerging leaders, their research groups, trainees, and international collaborators: a mutually-supportive platform for world-class Africa-relevant science and training.
  2. Provide career training for African I&I research leaders
  3. Enhance the UVRI-Makerere I&I research environment in terms of infrastructure, equipment and research support.
  4. Engage in outreach, developing communication skills; raising public awareness, networking scientists and trainees, sharing resources and research findings, interacting with policy makers, promoting implementation

Key areas           

Immunology

The Immunology Implementation team (impi) is led by Steve Cose and Bernard Bagaya.  Immunology Impi activities began with the launch of the Immunology in the Tropics course in 2009. The course has now been held 12 times. Immunology in the Tropics went “continental” in 2017, offering a course in The Gambia for easier access from West Africa, and a course in Gabon is planned for 2019.  MUII’s Steve Cose also contributed to courses in Kenya and Malawi, and is working with collaborators across the continent to promote and coordinate Immunology training: course materials are available on Immunopaedia (www.immunopaedia.org.za). 

The Impi contributed to development of the new Department of Immunology & Molecular Biology at Makerere College of Health Sciences (approved by University Council in March 2016). The Head of the new department, a MUII- plus Post-Doctoral Fellow, was appointed in April 2016.  The Impi also supports the department’s Master of Science in Immunology and Clinical Microbiology: here, the implementation of a curriculum of expert seminars from Cambridge University, UK, has been warmly appreciated by Masters’ students and staff.

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCB)

The BCB Impi is led by MUII fellows and alumni Jonathan Kayondo, Deo Ssemwanga and John Kitayimbwa (among others!). MUII offers travel grants to Centre members, and bioinformatics was first supported by travel grants for international training.  The core objective is to foster development of bioinformatics and computational biology expertise within MUII-plus and affiliates through training courses and research collaborations. Common and specialized software has been set up to run various next generation sequencing (NGS) applications including Illumina sequence data QA/QC, alignment, assembly, and mapping; variant calling (SNPs and HIVDR mutations); and phylogenetic analysis. The BCB Impi actively supports regional bioinformatics collaborations through meetings, training courses and joint grant proposals, and is training and mentoring an expanding group of interns and fellows. Highlights of 2017 included the award of two training grants for bioinformatics – one led by MUII members at Makerere, the other by colleagues at Kenya’s icipe – and the renewal of funding for key collaborating network H3A Bionet.

Following an MRC award of £2.8m, the Uganda Medical Informatics Centre (UMIC) was installed in the basement of the MUII-MRC-funded training resource building and will offer both improved computing infrastructure and senior staff with bioinformatic skills. The facility, launched during 2016, is intended to be a regional resource.  MUII offers grants to support project work using the UMIC.

Maternal, Neonatal and Reproductive Health

The Impi was initiated in January 2016 at a session organised as part of the activities to launch MUII-plus. It is led by Dr Annettee Nakimuli, one of the first cohort of MUII PhD fellows, who is now a MUII+ Group Leader and PhD supervisor, and head of the Makerere College of Health Sciences Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.  The Impi now has about 20 regular members.  A MUII+ Endeavour Award has been made to support the Impi activities, including a strategic planning meeting in January 2018.  Impi members have registered success in funding applications, including further NURTURE and THRiVE2 PhD fellowships as well as research grant funding.  As well, Annettee Nakimuli and her mentor Ashley Moffett (University of Cambridge) are spearheading the writing of the first textbook of African obstetrics to be published by the Cambridge University Press.

Fellowship Programme Summary

In 2008 MUII was launched as a training programme, supported by a Memorandum of Understanding between Makerere University and Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). The training programme’s goal is to attract bright young people into research, and to support them to develop their careers, and to produce excellent, and useful, results.  MUII supports both directly funded fellows, and honorary fellows (who are funded from other sources, but benefit from MUII resources and peer support). Fellows are recruited at Masters, PhD, postdoctoral and research group leader level. PhD and post-doc fellows receive funding to allow travel to work with collaborators outside Uganda in “sandwich” attachments

The past ten years have been an exciting time for MUII with the emergence and flourishing of a dynamic group of young Ugandan scientists learning how to harness cutting edge tools in basic sciences (such as immunology, molecular biology, genetics and bioinformatics) to address the health challenges of tropical Africa.  These ambitious and inspiring scientists have “graduated” from MUII-1 and from a number of other research capacity development programmes and these are now leading the MUII-plus Centre of Excellence implementation teams (Impi’s) to drive science and excellence in this field.

To date, MUII boasts of a total of 52 fellows: 3 group leaders, 15 post-docs, 20 PhD fellows, 16 Masters fellows.  As well, MUII has supported over 1000 internships and has shared science with about 5000 school students at Open Days. Collaborations have also emerged between Makerere Colleges, the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) and the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and young scientists are working together to secure research funding to address big challenges.

The fellowship programme is complemented by courses and workshops to provide specific skills, and to support professional development, that are run throughout the year.

List of funders

  1. Wellcome Trust
  2. African Academy of Science(AAS)
  3. Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA)
  4. NEPAD
  5. UK Aid
  6. Royal Society
  7. Many other contributors have provided additional support for fellows’ research, and this is much appreciated.