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Mak Launches COVID Convalescent Plasma Investigational New Drug and Trial

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus. First reported in early December 2019 in Wuhan China, it has since spread across all continents. Over 21 million cases have been reported, and more than 700,000 deaths have been recorded. The first case of COVID-19 in Uganda was reported on 21st March, 2020 and since then, more than 5,000 cases have been reported, with more than 60 deaths recorded.

There is no vaccine available for COVID-19, and treatments are only starting to emerge. There is emerging evidence to support use of COVID Convalescent Plasma (CCP) for treatment of COVID-19 especially among severe and critical patients. Plasma is the straw colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components of blood are removed.

Wednesday, September 16th 2020 was yet another day of great achievement to Makerere University in Kampala Uganda. On this day, Uganda’s Minister of Health; Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng officially launched the Uganda Coronavirus Convalescent Plasma Investigational New Drug and the CCP trial to assess the safety and efficacy of CCP in treatment of COVID 19 in Uganda. The launch was held at Makerere University’s Main Hall. Prof. William Bazeyo, the session chair and also Principal Investigator of the project gave welcome remarks on behalf of Makerere University’s Vice Chancellor. He thanked the government of the Republic of Uganda for funding this project and several others (now totaling to over 500 multidisciplinary projects) through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MAK-RIF) https://rif.mak.ac.ug/ . He also thanked Hon. Dr. Aceng who graced the occasion as Chief Guest for the continued support from the Ministry. He ended by assuring the Hon. Minister that Makerere University Medical School is working hard to become number one in Africa after being ranked second for so long. He noted this was possible with more support from the Government of the Republic of Uganda.

L-R: Ag. Principal CHS-Prof. Kajja Isaac, Prof. William Bazeyo, UPDF Chief of Medical Services-Dr. Ambrose Musinguzi, UPDF Physician-Dr. John Lusiba, Dr. Bruce Kirenga (Right) and another official at the CCP Launch
L-R: Ag. Principal CHS-Prof. Kajja Isaac, Prof. William Bazeyo, UPDF Chief of Medical Services-Dr. Ambrose Musinguzi, UPDF Physician-Dr. John Lusiba, Dr. Bruce Kirenga (Right) and another official at the CCP Launch

Dr. Bruce Kirenga; the Director Makerere University Lung Institute http://mli.mak.ac.ug and also Principal Investigator of this project mentioned that despite evidence of possible efficacy of CCP in treatment of COVID-19, very few African countries have undertaken the collection and processing of CCP. He mentioned the aim of the project was to assess the feasibility of collecting, processing and storing of CCP for treatment of COVID-19 in Uganda. He emphasized the need to collaborate and collate all the related scientific facts throughout the collection, processing and storage of Convalescent Plasma.

The team approached COVID-19 recovered individuals who had been managed and discharged at the treatment centers across the country. To be included, participants needed to provide written informed consent, have documented evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection by PCR, have documented evidence of full recovery from COVID-19, be at least 18 years old and meet all criteria for blood donation set by Uganda National Blood Transfusion Services in order to be eligible.

Dr. Bruce Kirenga said 87% of the 186 individuals who came to the center, qualified to donate. The donors were received from all regions of Uganda except Karamoja that had not registered an infection by commencement of the study. The median age of the donors was 33 years and 3.7% were females. A significant finding was that all the samples donated had enough antibodies to warrant use in treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The Minister of Health-Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng washes her hands after the launch on 16th September 2020 using the Touchless Handwashing Kit (TW-20) developed with support from the Government of Uganda through Mak-RIF
The Minister of Health-Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng washes her hands after the launch on 16th September 2020 using the Touchless Handwashing Kit (TW-20) developed with support from the Government of Uganda through Mak-RIF

In her address, Hon. Dr. Aceng thanked the scientists for the innovation and gave the green light to commence the CCP trial with immediate effect, now that the product was available. The Minister appealed to the general public to continue observing the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures as scientists continue to innovate, find treatment and cure for the deadly virus. She said the country had reached phase 4 of the pandemic and the virus was now killing on average 2-3 people a day. This she noted was indicative of widespread community transmission of COVID-19 meaning that the spread can no longer be controlled but can only be mitigated. She emphasized that COVID-19 in Uganda is real so anything proven that can be done to save life is highly welcome and appreciated.

The project was conducted by COVID Research (COVIDRES); a multi-disciplinary research group coordinated by the Makerere University Lung Institute (http://mli.mak.ac.ug). Other partners on the project are: Uganda People’s Defense Forces Medical Services, Mulago National Referral Hospital, Joint Clinical Research Center and Uganda Blood Transfusion Services. The team is now moving forward to undertaking the CCP trial.

Project details are shared and accessible here

Media Coverage of the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Investigational Drug launch

Broadcast Media

  1. NTV Uganda https://youtu.be/31DM3zeJqdM

Print Media

  1. The Independent https://www.independent.co.ug/makerere-scientists-big-move-on-covid-19-treatment/
  2. Makerere University Vice Chancellor’s Diary https://news.mak.ac.ug/2020/09/launching-covid-19-convalescent-plasma-drug/
  3. Uganda Update https://www.ugandaupdatenews.com/uganda-starts-plasma-based-treatment-trial-for-covid-19/
  4. The New Vision of September 17, 2020 page 3-See attached
  5. Daily Monitor of September 17, 2020 page 3-See attached

Pictures shared on https://we.tl/t-T99Kxua9nl

‘We Build for the Future’ ‘For God and My Country’

Compiled By: Musoki Walter Jack, 3rd Year Medicine and Surgery Student at Makerere University and

Harriet Adong, Communications Officer, Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)

Health

METS Newsletter May 2024

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The newly appointed CDC Uganda Country Director, Dr. Adetinuke Mary Boyd (7th from left) met with country implementing partner Executive Directors to get insights on ongoing projects, discussed leveraging of partnerships as well as strategizing for how best to strengthen health systems. Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI)-McKinnell Knowledge Centre, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program is a 5-year CDC-supported collaboration of Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Health Information Systems Program (HISP Uganda).

Highlights of the METS May 2024 Newsletter

  • Enhancing Response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
    • Responding to and preventing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and Violence Against Children (VAC) are critical components of Uganda’s national HIV prevention program. METS developed a new app designed to improve support for SGBV survivors. This followed an assessment in December 2022, that revealed gaps in service access and coordination in Fort Portal and Kampala Regions.
    • The METS team, in collaboration with regional implementing partners, is scaling up the app’s use in pilot districts such as Masaka, Kiryandongo, Fort Portal, and Mubende. The team visited facilities and police stations to install the app and train selected focal persons on its use.
  • Assessing Readiness for Integrated HIV and NCD Care Services
    • METS supported the Ministry of Health to conduct a site readiness assessment for integrated delivery of HIV and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) services from 22nd to 26th April 2024, in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and various implementing partners. The activity was conducted in selected health facilities in Acholi, Mubende, Kayunga, and Rwenzori regions to determine their feasibility for participating in a comprehensive NCD evaluation.
    • The 48 facilities visited have already integrated NCD services (mental Health, diabetes, and hypertension). Of these, 78% have integrated mental health services in their PMTCT clinics. 40% of the facilities have a dedicated NCD services physicians /doctor in the ART Clinic, 29% have doc have dedicated physicians in the PMTCT clinics. 90%. Most of the facilities have clinical and nurses in the ART than PMTCT facilities but more nurses offering NCD services in PMTCT sites.
  • Digitalizing the health sector through strategic partnerships
    • In collaboration with CDC and METS, the MoH organized a national Electronic Medical Records (EMR) stakeholders meeting to orient stakeholders on the national EMR agenda and transition towards a comprehensive digital health facility package. Key actions discussed included expanding the rollout of the EMR and Community Health Information System (eCHIS) and urging development partners to support prioritized health information and digital health investments.
    • The introduction of electronic medical records (EMRs) in health facilities aims to improve the quality of health service delivery by providing real-time accountability transparency, and traceability of medical supplies, monitoring health worker absenteeism, enhancing patient satisfaction through efficient care provision, reducing unnecessary or duplicate diagnostic tests, and offering easy access to management reports for decision-making. Additionally, EMRs will lay the foundation for the implementation of national health insurance.
  • UgandaEMR+ Implementation Showcased at Kisenyi HCIV
    • METS and Reach Out Mbuya (ROM) showcased the implementation of UgandaEMR+ to representatives from the USG and the Ministry of Health (MoH) at Kisenyi HCIV. The visit was aimed at providing a clear understanding of the system’s functionality at the health facility, which serves over 1,200 outpatients daily and supports over 1600 clients on ART.
    • Dr. Peter Akonyera, the ART Clinic In Charge shared positive end-user experiences, noting simplified data use and analysis, efficient data retrieval, and the system’s popularity among users despite existing challenges. He appreciated METS’ support in maintaining system synchronization. The data visualization tools have been particularly useful for clinicians to manage patient schedules and workload distribution effectively, ensuring timely and efficient healthcare delivery.
  • METS Showcases Research at INTEREST 2024 Conference in Benin
    • The International Conference on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis, and Prevention Research (INTEREST) brought together global scientists to share cutting-edge knowledge in HIV diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. The conference also aimed to build a community of African physicians and scientists to develop local solutions for managing HIV and preventing its transmission.
    • METS submitted an abstract titled “Enhancing HIV Case Identification through a National HIV Testing Services (HTS) Continuous Quality Improvement” based on support to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in designing, implementing, and evaluating initiatives to increase the identification of HIV-positive clients, crucial for achieving the global target of 95% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) knowing their status.
  • Gallery
    • New CDC Director meets Country implementing partner Executive Directors
    • UgandaEMR+ support supervision at Kisenyi HCIV visit
    • EMR Stakeholders meeting
    • CBS guidelines meeting
    • INTEREST 2024 conference – Benin
    • Key Populations assessment – Ishaka district

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SIMCS-Trial Vacancy Announcement: Twenty-Five (25) Research Assistants

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An elevated shot of the School of Health Sciences and School of Medicine Building, College of Health Sciences (CHS), Makerere University. Mulago Campus, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Makerere University College of Health Sciences School of Medicine in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine received funding from US National Institutes of Health – Fogarty International Center to carry out a study on “Development and evaluation of an information management and communication system for population-wide point of-care infant sickle cell disease screening (SIMCS-Trial)”. The program seeks to recruit 25 research assistants at its study sites. 

Roles and responsibilities  

  • Identify and screen participants for possible enrolment into the study according to the Study Protocol.
  • Obtain informed consent from caregivers of eligible participants as per protocol accordance with GCP and HSP principles.
  • Counsel and explain study procedures to the caregivers of study participants using the mobile app.
  • Enrol eligible participants into the study to meet the study accrual targets.
  • Complete study CRFs, correctly and accurately in compliance with trial procedures/ SOPs and GCP standards.
  • Ensure study participants’ safety and privacy, data integrity and confidentiality.
  • Participate in collection of appropriate study samples/specimens from the participants as per protocol and SOPs as well as performing the test.
  • Carry out any other duties as assigned by superiors in line with your work.

Required Qualification and experience 

  • A degree in any health-related discipline, and registered with the relevant national bodies.
  • Knowledge and familiarity with Microsoft word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access as well as basic internet applications 
  • Skills in using common relevant computer packages and mobile technology for data collection
  • Previous work in a research environment is added advantage.
  • Basic knowledge of clinical research regulatory procedures. 
  • Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training and Research Ethics training skills and knowledge
  • Excellent command of English (written and oral) as well as the local languages (Luganda or Lusoga)
  • Excellent interpersonal skills to develop relationships with participants.
  • Experience of living and or working both in urban and rural environment.
  • Team-working skills to work effectively as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team 
  • Time management skills and ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
  • Highly organized, detail-oriented and self-motivated/driven. 
  • Ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. 
  • Ability to professionally communicate in writing, verbally or other means deemed appropriate. 

Reports to: The SIMCS Co-Investigator/SIMCS Trial Coordinator 

Expected start date: July 2024

How to apply: 1-page type written application letter addressed to the Principal Investigator SIMCS Trial MakCHS SOM together with current CV, copies of academic certificates, and recommendation letters from two past employers should be e-mailed as ONE PDF DOCUMENT to makimpact22@gmail.com

Deadline for receiving applications: Friday 20th June 2024 at 5:00 pm

Only shortlisted candidates will be invited to the interview. 

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CTCA Call for Proposals: Enhance Tobacco Control Institutional Capacity in Africa

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Call for Proposals - Project Title: Enhance Tobacco Control Institutional Capacity in Africa; Grant #339. Deadline 30th June 2024, by 5pm EAT. The Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA), School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences (CHS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Project Title: Enhance Tobacco Control Institutional Capacity in Africa; Grant #339

Introduction:

The Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA) received funding from the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for the 2024-2026 to implement a project on institutional capacity. The project investments are geared towards sustaining human resource capacity and knowledge generation to reduce use of all forms of tobacco products in Africa. Specifically, the project aims to:

  1. Enhance training opportunities for African governments and relevant actors in tobacco control in
    the continent
  2. Increase access to knowledge for guiding tobacco use prevention and control in Africa
  3. Reinforce the institutional development of CTCA for an optimal performance of its functions
    and processes.

In 2020, CTCA developed a Tobacco Control Research Agenda (TCRA) with the aim of providing a guide for generating local evidence to drive tobacco control policy formulation and implementation in Africa.

Therefore, CTCA with support from ACBF is seeking researchers across the African continent to be awarded 6 small grants of USD 5000 to implement research that aligns with the TCRA thematic areas below:

  1. Patterns and trends of tobacco use and exposure for all tobacco products including the new
    products at country and regional levels (sex, age, region, types of products, new products).
  2. Effects of tobacco use and exposure on sustainable development (poverty, education, culture, food security, environment, HIV, TB, reproductive health, NCDs).
  3. Tobacco use and populations at risk (youth, young adults, women/gender, elderly, residents
    of urban areas, miltary, prisoners, mental health patients, populations in low socio-economic
    dwellings like slums).
  4. Tobacco control policy research and analysis (smoke free, TAPS, GHWs, ceasation) of cost
    effectiveness, impact, drivers, enablers, innovation, challenges, communication and advocacy
    for tobacco control.
  5. Sociocultural context of tobacco use
  6. Tobacco industry and tobacco control policy
  7. Tobacco production, alternative livelihoods and environment (distribution, value chain,
    environmental impact, historical and determinants of tobacco production)
  8. The economics of tobacco and tobacco control (product, pricing, illicit tobacco trade,
    taxation)

The full research Agenda can be accessed in English and in French.

Submissions

We are pleased to invite submissions from researchers based in Africa. Successful proposals should align with any of the 8 thematic areas of the CTCA Research Agenda. Innovative proposals that address critical issues and contribute to evidence-based policy and practice in the respective areas to inform Tobacco control in Africa are particularly encouraged.

Requirements

These grants will fund work that relates to the CTCA Research Agenda. Activities will include
proposal development, data collection and analysis, report writing and dissemination. All research to be implemented will be approved by the institutional review board and published in peer reviewed journals. These grants are intended for; 1) Researchers based in Tobacco Control Programs/Response; 2) post graduate students who would like to complete their research projects aligned to this call and 3) early and middle career researchers. It is required that this research is executed, and the report completed within 12 months. The applicant should have a mentor in an established institution.

Eligibility

Eligibility is restricted to Africa-based researchers. This refers to individuals who are (a) currently studying at a university or research institute in Africa, and/or b) currently working within a university, research institute, or in tobacco control in Africa. All persons associated with tobacco industry will not be funded and therefore should not apply. Successful applicants will be required to sign a declaration of interest that they do not have any relationship with tobacco industry.

Evaluation criteria

Proposals will be reviewed by a group of experts and researchers. Projects will be assessed against six, equally weighted evaluation criteria:

  • Knowledge contribution in respect to policy, strategy, and evidence to answer local
    challenges:
    Does the study articulate the research gap? Does study make a significant
    contribution toward advancing knowledge in the tobacco control field? Does it answer
    new questions or introduce novel methods, measures, or tobacco control interventions? Is
    it aligned to the WHO FCTC and tobacco control local context requirements? Does the
    study add to the existing body of research?
  • Policy relevance: Will results from the research have generalizable implications? How,
    if at all, will the “lessons learned” have relevance beyond the study? Will the study
    outcomes influence decisions in tobacco control?
  • Technical design: Do the methods appropriately answer the objectives and the questions
    outlined in the proposal? Is the proposed study feasible in one year?
  • Project viability: Are there any other logistical or political obstacles that might threaten
    the completion of the study, for example, government authorization or Human Subjects
    review, civil strife, social cultural sensitivity?
  • Value of research: Is the cost of the study commensurate with the value of expected
    contributions to policy? Are the planned activities justified and coherent?
  • Ethics: Reviewers will consider whether there are any risks of harm to research
    participants, what the proposed risk mitigation strategies are, and how the possible
    benefits of the research compare to the possible harms.

Application Process

Apply HERE not later than 30th June 2024, by 5pm EAT. Applicants are required to provide a
recommendation/support letter from their supervisors or heads of department.

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