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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

Fostering Continuous Improvement of Public Health Laboratory Services In Uganda: IDI’s Contribution (2018-2020)

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One of the staff uses the Abbott m2000 RealTime System in the Core Laboratory (CL), IDI, Makerere University.

The Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), Makerere University houses a state of the art laboratory – the Core Laboratory (CL) – certified by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and accredited by the Uganda Ministry of Health (MoH) as a lead partner in strengthening laboratory systems.

In line with its 5-year (2018-2023) goal of ‘providing high-quality lab services at IDI to meet both clinical and research demands, to support the sustained improvement of lab capacity across Uganda with systems of assured and consistent quality’ to conduct routine testing, specialized clinical research trials, and detection of virulent pathogens of epidemic outbreak nature.

To match internationally standards for clinical laboratory methodologies and clinical applications, the CL has maintained a 25-year record of conducting at least 01 internal audit, 04 external audits annually, besides bi-annual inspections by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), to incorporate the latest best practices. Further, the CL continuously improves its technology and automation to increase productivity and enhance testing turnaround time (TAT).

The CL operates in a One IDI approach, where sister Technical Programs source its support, besides the Ministry of Health of Uganda, local and international academic research institutions and individual research fellows. The outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019 was an opportunity for growth and expansion for the CL, to support national and global preparedness and response to infection prevention and control (IPC). To date, the CL has registered several milestones in enhancing disease laboratory TAT for COVID-19 testing, strengthening human capacity at the forefront on COVID-19 IPC, sustaining laboratory services for other communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as answering research questions.

Please see Downloads for the full technical brief.

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UniCare App: 24/7 Access to Counselling

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UniCare App: 24/7 Access to Professional Counselling Services. Available on Google Play Store.

The Counselling and Guidance Centre (CGC) has developed UniCare, a counselling App for the Makerere University community members (Staff and Students).

Do you have personal concerns that need addressing?

Do you need to improve your life skills?

Are you struggling with something and need to talk to someone professional in confidence?

Then download UniCare from the Play Store and use it at any time of your convenience.

You can access counselling services through instant messaging, phone calls and other forms.

Enquiries:

Tel: +256-751-700897
Email: rbaguma[at]cit.ac.ug, henry.nsubuga[at]mak.ac.ug

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Call for Applications: PhD Fellowships in Bioethics (4th Cohort)

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The Davies Lecture Theatre (Right), School of Biomedical Sciences (Blue) and other buildings at the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Mulago Campus, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

Applications are invited for PhD fellowships in bioethics from Makerere University College of Health Sciences (CHS) faculty and individuals who participate in the academic activities of the college who are interested and COMMITTED to becoming bioethics scholars.

Successful applicants should be willing to become bioethics scholars as they work within the structured and mentored training programme with a focus on any aspect of international research bioethics related to Health Sciences. Funding will be available to support 2 successful doctoral candidates up to 3 years of accelerated training leading to the award of the Makerere University doctoral degree.

Eligibility

This training is open to faculty including people who contribute to teaching and research at Makerere University or one of its partner institutions in Uganda, who meet any of the following criteria:

a. Able to articulate a clear research bioethics problem of interest to them.
b. Demonstrate prior participation in bioethics, beyond having submitted research proposals to an IRB.
c. Demonstrate a basic understanding of bioethics in order to know that this is an appropriate next step for the applicant.
d. Demonstrate past active participation in bioethics in health service delivery or at the interface of health related ethical-legal issues
e. Provide evidence of experience in research in bioethics and or authorship in this field
f. Prior master’s level or fellowship level training in bioethics or related fields.

Criteria for Selection

  1. Demonstrated interest in doctoral research training and conducting research with a focus on
    research bioethics.
  2. Potential to handle rigorous academic requirements of the doctoral program.
  3. Having a plan for career development
  4. Capacity towards attaining research leadership and international recognition in bioethics.
  5. Female candidates and medical doctors are especially encouraged to apply

Application Process

Applications must be submitted to makbioethics[at]gmail.com and should consist of a cover letter (1 page only), a resume (not more than 3 pages), a personal statement (Maximum 1 page), a Makerere University formatted PhD research concept (Maximum 10 pages) and two letters of recommendation (sent separately by the referees to makbioethics[at]gmail.com). The personal statement should include your contribution to the academic and research life of a department at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, your aspirations for career progression in the next 5-7 years, research interests and any information you consider relevant.

Closing date for the receipt of applications is 8th October 2021.

Enquiries can be forwarded to the PI, of the PhD bioethics research training Program on makbioethics[at]gmail.com

Timelines:

  • Application deadline: October 8, 2021
  • Interviews: October 15, 2021
  • Notification date: October 22, 2021
  • Proposed start date: November 1, 2021

Part of this training will take place at Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics in the USA in Year 1 for a total of 2-3 months. Successful candidates will receive a monthly stipend based on USA National Institutes of Health regulations, tuition, research funds and travel to the USA. Applicants should demonstrate excellent communications skills and will be expected to work as part of a highly motivated, result oriented bioethics group.

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