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Mak Launches Homegrown COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits

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By: Harriet Adong, Mak-RIF Communications Officer

The afternoon of Wednesday March 17th, 2021 saw Makerere University’s Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, College of Health Sciences (CHS) launch the homegrown COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits. The COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits developed domestically aim to address challenges related to affordability/cost using imported items, promote research and innovation in the medical/health field and Makerere University in general.

This project was spearheaded by Dr. Misaki Wayengera, Director Biomedical Research at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University. Dr. Wayengera is also the Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee on the COVID-19 Taskforce in the Ministry of Health. These efforts are directed towards enhancing the fight against the spread of the Corona Virus not only at Makerere University but also in the entire country. Explaining the advantages of the project, Dr. Wayengera said “Makerere University has developed an affordable (costing less than US $1), easy to use (requiring minimal expertise, user guide), rapid (yielding results within 2-5 minutes) point of care test platform for COVID-19 suited for use within remote equatorial African settings. This will enable rapid testing for Coronavirus and considerably lower the cost of testing currently standing at USD 65, which is prohibitive for developing countries like Uganda. This could not have been achieved without the financial support of Partners and Institutions such as Supervised Financial Institutions under their umbrella body Uganda Bankers Association, Deposit Protection Fund of Uganda, and Government of the Republic of Uganda, the French Embassy in Uganda and Uganda’s Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation’’.

The Test Kit involves using a swab-tube dipstick to do an antigen test by use of a nasal sample. With this quick test, once the nasopharyngeal sample is obtained, it is placed back into its tube containing reagents that detect the virus surface protein.

French Ambassador to Uganda-H.E. Jules-Armand Aniambossou (2nd L) cuts the tape to unveil the Test Kits as Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (2nd R), Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye (2nd L) and Dr. Misaki Wayengera (R) witness.

This event was attended by Uganda’s Minister of Health; Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, Uganda’s Minister of Science Technology and Innovation; Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, French Ambassador to Uganda; His Excellency Jules-Armand Aniambossou, the World Health Organization Country Representative; Dr. Yonas W. Tegeny, Uganda’s Director General at Ministry of Health; Dr. Henry Mwebesa and the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Health; Dr. Diana Atwine. The funders were also represented at the event and these included; Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) represented by Dr. Roy William Mayega, Mak-RIF Coordinator, Uganda Bankers Association represented by Mr. Wilbrod Owor, the French Embassy and Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation like earlier listed  among other dignitaries.

At the occasion, Prof. Damalie Nakanjako, Principal Makerere University College of Health Sciences represented Makerere University’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe. She welcomed all scientists, innovators and the media fraternity (representing the community) to witness yet another stride in and by faculty in Uganda’s leading higher institution of learning-Makerere University. In her remarks, she noted that, the University has through College of Health Sciences built extensive expertise, experience and eco-systems across the academia and partnerships for Research and Development of pathogen diagnostic. “This kit will carry out antibody tests. It will also be used in early detection of COVID-19 cases, used in screening of travelers for COVID-19, detection of symptoms as well as aid in sero-prevalennce studies to determine previous exposure to COVID-19. Makerere University is hopeful that this will enable Uganda and other African countries to cost-effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Makerere University is grateful for the SEED funding (UGX 65, 527, 020) from the Government of the Republic of Uganda through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) which aided initialization of this project. The Government of the Republic of Uganda is funding cross disciplinary research and innovations (over 500 projects now, up to a tune of Uganda Shillings 60 billion only for the last two financial years). Makerere University faculty and students have through this initiative engaged with other institutions, organizations, disciplines and Ministries enhancing research and innovations in and outside the institution. For all this support, we are truly grateful to the Government of the Republic of Uganda and all our other funders/partners, Prof. Nakanjako added.

Minister of Science Technology and Innovation-Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye (R) chats with the Host and Principal College of Health Sciences (CHS)-Prof. Damalie Nakanjako (L) at the event. Centre is MoSTI’s Dr. Maxwell Onapa Otim

Hon. Dr. Elioda Tuwesigye, Minister of Science Technology and Innovation in Uganda noted that such strides like the launch of Makerere University homegrown COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits was only a wake-up call to all of us that the virus is still with us and we can together do so much to up the fight against further spread and effects. He thanked the Government of the Republic of Uganda for funding research and innovations in Makerere University and other institutions too. “It is through research that we garner additional knowledge to enable us to be and remain creative. Embracing Research and Innovation is the way to go if we are to realize development in our country, Africa and the globe’’, he added.

Uganda’s Minister of Health at the event in her remarks congratulated all scientists at Makerere University including Dr. Wayengera and his research for working closely with the Ministry to respond to diverse community challenges and in this case the Coronavirus. She noted that this virus is still with us and thus the need for us to continue observing the Standard Operating Procedures, researching ad innovating to carry on with the fight.  She added that some countries were experiencing the second and third wave of Coronavirus and thus Ugandans must remain on the alert regardless of the circumstances at the moment so that these waves do not crop in and sweep away the population. Hon. Dr. Aceng said: “These rapid antibody testing kits come at a point when we are preparing for the next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, thank you Dr. Wayengera and team.’’ 

His Excellency Jules-Armand Aniambossou, French Ambassador in his remarks noted that the French Embassy in Uganda was and is happy to collaborate with and further support Makerere University’s efforts to respond to the Coronavirus. He said “Uganda’s response to COVID-19 was and is strong, immediate ad efficient. We need to learn from Uganda. Uganda can compete globally. Well done Scientists, he said as he officially launched the homegrown COVID-19 Rapid antibody Test Kits’’.

L-R: Mak-RIF Representative-Dr. Roy William Mayega, Uganda Bankers’ Association (UBA) Executive Secretary-Mr. Wilbrod Owor and MoSTI’s Dr. Maxwell Onapa Otim showcase the unveiled kits

In the drive to raise funds towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and in response to Government’s call for support to join hands, Members of Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) and the Deposit Protection Fund contributed UGX. 200million to the project which was in advanced stages in 2020. Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Wilbrod Owor-Executive Director UBA applauded Makerere University for the research efforts as an academic institution and the quick turnaround invention. “The pandemic has had diverse effects on the economy and one of the most affected sectors are education, tourism & hospitality, real estate which ultimately have affected the banking sector by way of increase in Non-Performing Loans.  In addition to the loan restructures that member banks have offered, as part of support to business community, we are also happy to have invested to support testing. Therefore, the affordability of this intervention is much welcome to address cost issues that would otherwise have to be so high for an average Ugandan” Owor said.

Dr. Roy William Mayega, Coordinator at the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) on behalf of Prof. William Bazeyo, Chair Mak-RIF thanked Dr. Wayengera and his research/innovation team for the work well done. He also thanked all funders for positively responding to the call for more resources to realize this project. He said “It is only when funders see such research and innovation outputs like the COVID-19 Rapid antibody Test Kits we are holding in our hands now that they will look further into their Bank Accounts to raise more resources to further support research and innovations. Thank you Dr. Wayengera and all the other Scientists for leading by doing. Let us continue with these efforts’’.

Dr. Wayengera acknowledged all the support/funding and gave each donor a pack of the COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Testing Kits.

Minister of Health-Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (L) and Director General of Health Services-Dr. Henry Mwebesa (2nd L) lead the volunteers who experienced antibody testing after the Test Kits’ launch.

The event host, Prof. Nakanjako, Principal at Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences then thanked all participants and welcomed them to further engage in a cocktail as volunteers led by the Director General and Minister of Health experienced antibody testing using the newly launched kits. The rest of the COVID-19 Test Kits will be used in the Makerere University Medical School laboratories

Congratulations Makerere University and congratulations the Government of the Republic of Uganda!

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

View and read about this launch in the Media

  1. New COVID-19 rapid antibody test kits launched to reduce cost and promote research. – https://joripress.com/new-covid-19-rapid-antibody-test-kits-launched-to-reduce-cost-and-promote-research
  2. https://www.ntv.co.ug/ug/news/national/local-testing-ability-improves-with-new-covid-19-kits-3326454
  3. https://chimpreports.com/makerere-launches-own-covid19-testing-kit/
  4. https://www.independent.co.ug/makerere-university-launches-covid-19-anti-body-test-kits/
  5. https://twitter.com/JaneRuth_Aceng/status/1372187357781360642?s=1002
  6. https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/news/national/scientists-behind-uganda-s-first-coronavirus-test-kits-3327390
  7. New Vision Newspaper Friday March 19th , 2021, Page 10
  8. Daily Monitor Newspaper Thursday March 18th , 2021 Page 6

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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