The US$7.2 million grant for Makerere University and the Ugandan Virus Research Institute (UVRI) partnership’s infection and immunity research training programme dubbed ‘MUII plus’, was made known last month (27 January) during the programme’s launch in Uganda.
“The Ministry of Health strongly supports this endeavour and looks forward to the new knowledge that will be generated in Uganda for Africa.”
Asuman Lukwago, Uganda’s Ministry of Health
The programme, in association with UK-based Cambridge University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is funded by the Wellcome Trust and the UK Department for International Development under the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science Initiative (DELTAS).
This new funding builds on the first phase of the programme, MUII, which was implemented from 2008 to 2015 to help East African researchers pursue careers in infection and immunity focusing on endemic diseases, says Pontiano Kaleebu, the director of the Medical Research Council/Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, noting that it will help boost the training of young aspiring scientists.
Asuman Lukwago, the permanent secretary, Uganda’s Ministry of Health, told SciDev.Net at the launch: “The Ministry of Health strongly supports this endeavour and looks forward to the new knowledge that will be generated in Uganda for Africa.”
In total, the DELTAS Africa scheme awarded over £46million (almost US$70 million) last year over an initial period of five years to programmes led by universities and research institutes in Ghana, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, according to the Wellcome Trust.
The first phase established a fellowship programme which has supported six masters, five doctoral and five postdoctoral fellows.
Since January 2014, Margaret Nampijja has been working on a MUII postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Alison Elliot, a coordinator of the MUII programme at UVRI and a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Katie Alcock, a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University, United Kingdom.
Nampijja is investigating the cognitive effects of heavy schistosomiasis infection and its treatment in school-going children in rural fishing communities of Lake Victoria islands in Uganda. Preliminary findings indicate that intensive treatment with dewormers may have greater cognitive benefits than annual treatment, results that may inform policy on deworming in children.
Nampijja is now one of the few development psychologists in the East Africa region. “Through the postdoctoral studies, I have obtained a deeper understanding of child development in the context of frequent childhood infections,” Nampijja says.
Fellows will also engage in outreach through local and regional partners, including the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the Centre de Recherches Médicale de Lambaréné in Gabon.
“I have been able to do high-tech, internationally-recognised research,” says Damalie Nakanjako, an associate professor at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences and one of the beneficiaries of the DELTAS programme. “I have also been able to access international journals, attend international meetings and work with different international universities through training, research and healthcare.” But Nakanjako adds that African countries should put more money into the programme so that students can do more research ideal for Africans.
Doreen Tuhebwe, a former MUII master’s fellow, tells SciDev.Net: “I hope in 2016 I will enroll in a PhD programme. I am interested in interventions that can help students in higher education to achieve the best learning outcomes, specifically linking the community needs to students learning and improvement in health.”
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.