Dr. Bernard Bagaya, a MUII supported staff member at Makerere University has since March, been the Technical Head of COVID-19 testing at Makerere University and also a member of the Laboratory Subcommittee that plans, implements and monitors all testing for the National COVID-19 Response Committee.
Established in 2008, MUII has had an overarching goal of building both human and infrastructure capacity to respond to infectious diseases in the African context. In no previous health scenario has MUII’s capacity been of such immediate national relevance as during this COVID-19 pandemic. MUII contributed financial resources and technical expertise during the establishment of the first Immunology Laboratory in Makerere University College of Health Sciences, including provision of vital equipment and -80°C/LN2 freezer capabilities. This capacity in the Immunology laboratory is now part of the aggregate of laboratories at Makerere University working together to test for COVID-19 in Uganda. The Makerere University capacity only comes second to the Uganda Virus Research Institute in sample testing and has of December 14th supported the Ministry of Health by testing 184,319 clinical COVID-19 samples.
In addition, Makerere University College of Health Sciences Immunology laboratory, together with its sister Molecular Biology laboratory at Makerere University, supported the Ministry of Health in conducting the 1st and 2nd National COVID-19 survey. The Immunology laboratory capacity processed over 45,000 blood and saliva samples for storage and serology for COVID-19 exposure, contributing vital information to the planning of the National COVID-19 response. The established infrastructure and human resource are also heavily supporting COVID-19 research with over 5 projects being run by the immunology lab. Significant among them is the processing and storage of blood cells, plasma, serum, urine and stool samples for the National COVID-19 Biobank project that will support current and future research. The laboratory is also running the sample processing and specialized assays for the Convalescent Plasma Clinical Trial, including measurement of anti-SARS CoV-2 antibody titers in donor plasma, cytokine quantification and measurements of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein.
Dr. Bagaya is also a Principal Investigator on several COVID-19 research projects of National importance, including the Convalescent Plasma Clinical Trial, the National COVID-19 Biobank project, the Molecular and Serological Diagnostics manufacturing project, the COVID-19 Subunit vaccine development project and the COVID-19 Antigen development project.
On the other hand, MUII alumna Dr Rose Nabatanzi, who now is the Immunology Implementation Team Leader for MUII-plus, has led the COVID-19 immunology research at Makerere University, including managing the immunology laboratory, validation of over 14 antibody Rapid Diagnostic Tests and Enzyme-linked Immuno-Assays for COVID-19, processing of clinical and research samples and being a Co-Investigator on several projects.