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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

MU-JHU Position: Training & Development Coordinator

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Participants in the two-day MU-JHU hybrid meeting discuss the upcoming IMPOWER-022 study, the HPTN 084 DSMB results and the changing landscape of HIV Prevention studies in Uganda, April 2021.

The Makerere University-Johns Hopkins (MU-JHU) Research Collaboration – MU-JHU CARE LTD, a Kampala – based equal opportunities Clinical Research and Service Delivery Organisation with more than 350 employees is seeking interested, committed and reliable professionals with the described qualifications to apply for the position of Training & Development Coordinator.

Training & Development Coordinator – 1 position Description and purpose:

The successful candidate has overall responsibility to plan and administer programs to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge to compete effectively and meet the organization’s business objectives including direct training as well as support to content specialist trainers. The successful candidate will be responsible to liaise with middle management to identify training needs and support talent retention and development strategies with senior management.

Required qualifications and profile:

The successful candidate will be an experienced professional with hands on experience coordinating training and development programs in a large corporate setting, preferably in a similar health and/or research environment. The ideal candidate must possess a minimum of Bachelor’s degree in Education, Training, with a post graduate degree in HRM or a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management. A relevant Masters level degree is desirable. The candidate should have proven ability to complete the full training cycle (assess needs, plan, develop, coordinate, monitor and evaluate) and experience with e-learning platforms and direct adult training and train the trainer methods, including on-the-job coaching and mentorship programs. The ideal candidate must have a minimum of 3 years’ experience working as a HR practitioner. Experience working in a health related research organization will be an advantage. The candidate should be MS Office proficient in MS Office packages. The ideal candidate should possess advanced organizational skills with the ability to handle multiple assignments and strong written and oral communication skills as well as emotional intelligence.

The holder of this position will work under the supervision of the Human Resources Manager and will be responsible for the following duties:

1. Develop a robust training policy and related procedures for the organization

  • Conduct organization-wide training needs assessment and identify skills or knowledge gaps that need to be addressed
  • Mapping out training plans and schedules, designing and developing training programs (outsourced or in-house)
  •  Source for training opportunities to enhance staff performance including advanced training for individuals and participation in grant writing for training/capacity development grants
  •  Assess training effectiveness and determine the impact of training on employee skills and KPIs Maintain an updated training database
  •  Ensure planning, monitoring, and appraisal of employee work results by training managers to coach employees.

2.  Support the HR team carry out HR operational requirements.

Applications with complete C.Vs, including 3 referees and their full addresses or contact Tel No.’s, copies of academic certificates and testimonials, should be hand delivered to: The Human Resources Manager, through reception Room 10, located in MUJHU 1 Building or sent by email (application should not exceed 15MBs) to hroffice@mujhu.org – not later than 30th April, 2021 by 5:30p.m. Only short listed applicants will be contacted.

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Health

World Health Day 2021 – Op-Ed by H.E. Veestraeten & Prof. Wanyenze

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The Dean, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH)-Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze addresses participants at the EVAWG Bazaar on 6th December 2018, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) Innovation Lab, Plot 30, Upper Kololo Terrace, Kampala, Uganda

As we mark World Health Day 2021, the Ambassador of Belgium to Uganda, H.E. Rudi Veestraeten and the Dean, School of Public Health, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze co-authored an Op-Ed in line with the theme; Health Equity, a fairer and healthier world.

“Health is critical and especially now, with COVID-19 so World Health Day should receive more attention” remarked Prof. Wanyenze.

Please click the link below to access the full Op-Ed

https://uganda.diplomatie.belgium.be/sites/default/files/content/download/files/world_health_day_2021_op-ed.pdf

The same has been published on Page 18 of the New Vision, Wednesday, April 7, 2021 under the Comments & Letters Section

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Mak Unveils C-19: COVID-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

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Project Principal Investigator, MakSPH's Dr. Harriet Babikako (2nd R), the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health's Dr. Ezekiel Musasizi (1st R) and Dr. Ezekiel Mupere (1st L) and Mr. Haron Gichuhi (2nd L) after the application launch at Child and Family Foundation Uganda Offices, Kampala.

By Joseph Odoi

As government strives to reduce community spread of the novel coronavirus, Makerere University researchers have developed a mobile application that digitizes the investigation, case, and contact tracing for COVID-19 in communities.

With Funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF) and Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and Ministry of Health, the application is designed to investigate case and contact tracing for COVID-19, timely reporting and decision making to improve the efficiency of COVID-19 response and capture community feedback.

While launching  the application under project titled ‘’C-19’’, Dr. Harriet Babikako  the Project lead  said her team was inspired by the need to  address the existing challenges of trekking long distances for hours to ascertain information in regards to suspected or even confirmed cases of COVID-19, delayed communication and  responses, loss of contact lists and transcription errors .

“Currently, Community surveillance teams have to trek distances for hours to go and find information from suspected or even confirmed cases. Therefore, challenges such as incomplete identification of contacts, delays in communication, and response, loss of contact lists, inadequate data collection, and transcription errors exist, making the system slow, and inefficient. Thus information exchange between involved parties is too slow and expensive because, by the time a response is generated, the disease is spreading. This means the spreading of COVID-19 is not solved efficiently” she explained in a zoom session on Tuesday 30th March 2021.

Dr. Harriet Babikako-the Project lead delivers her remarks at the Application launch.

As part of the features, the application has various COVID-19 self-assessment components on its Epi -COVID Tracer Dashboard. This enables the app user to undergo self-screening or screen others using different prompts.

The application also boasts of support services that include COVID-19 Laboratories and hospitals all authorized by Ministry of Health. One can consult Private Doctors and Counsellors on the App through WhatsApp or other call options.

In terms of reservation, the application system enables one to book for a COVID-19 test from the nearest authorized laboratories .This is done by filling a lab booking form which locates the test center near you.    Additionally, it also enables different user’s right from Community, VHTs District Task Force DTF and National Task Force NFT by filling the contact tracing form.

An interface of the C-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

On the relevance of the app to School going students, Haron Gichuhi a health informant and Co-Investigator of the project; said this mobile application empowers health workers within schools to appropriately screen students and allows them to manage/refer probable cases of COVID-19.

“Now that schools are open, School nurses can use the application to carry out tests and refer students to nearest laboratories with in their proximity.

“The application also gives the students their COVID-19 status and advises them on preventive methods like self-isolation” noted Dr. Gichuhi of the ambitious innovation which took 6 months to create

On cost effectiveness, the researchers say the app addresses the concept of high costs to government. This is because the application is available to communities like market vendors, schools, individuals.

On uniqueness of the mobile innovation, the researchers cited decision making, quick scanning of information, case management and peer checking for other colleagues as special qualities ingrained in the application.

With this app, one can  book a COVID-19 test with MOH authorized Laboratories and hospitals on the application and also  consult a private doctor or a private counsellor. This can be done within any citizen’s comfort with just a click on their phone.

Mr. Ezekiel Musasizi from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Makerere University, (Co-investigator) says the team is in the process of translating the app to different languages to cater for all classes of society

In her final remarks, Dr. Harriet Babikako thanked Ministry of Health, Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and the Government of Uganda efforts towards supporting research and innovation through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF). The launch attracted virtual participants from academia, non-government organizations, students, development partners, the media and Ministry of Health.

MORE ABOUT PROJECT TEAM

The C-19 Project was implemented by researchers and innovators from Makerere University with funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF).

The Project /innovation team includes; Dr. Harriet Babikako from Makerere University School of Public Health (Principal Investigator), Dr. Vincent Michael Kiberu (Co-Pi) and Dr. Ezekiel Mupere (Co-Pi) from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and Mr. Haron Gichuhi (Co-PI and Health Informant).

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