Professor Alison Elliott
Principal Investigator, Uganda Schistosomiasis Multidisciplinary Research Center.
Alison Elliott is theme leader for Vaccines Research at the MRC/Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit and Professor of Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Her main research interest is to understand how chronic and repeated infection exposure, and other environmental factors, determine population differences in immune profiles, disease susceptibility and, in particular, responses to vaccines.
She became interested in parasitology and research in Africa as an undergraduate and this interest was encouraged further by an elective in The Gambia. After completing medical training she joined the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and, during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, undertook studies on the interaction between tuberculosis and HIV infection in Zambia. An infectious diseases fellowship in Denver, Colorado, followed, providing an opportunity to learn about management of drug resistant tuberculosis and about laboratory immunology. This enabled her to plan and conduct subsequent clinical-immuno-epidemiological studies. Since 1997 she has been based in Uganda at the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Unit. Current research programmes include an NIHR Global Health Group on vaccines for vulnerable populations in Africa; an NIH-funded Tropical Medicine Research Center on schistosomiasis, and work on a controlled human infection model for schistosomiasis in the endemic setting.
Building capacity in infection and immunity research in Africa is a priority and each programme supports students and post-doctoral scientists, building on the work of the Makerere University – UVRI Centre of Excellence for Infection and Immunity Research and Training which she led from 2008-2022. This supported many fellows, and contributed to the development of a department of immunology and molecular biology at Makerere, and a Masters course, as well as supporting PhD students and senior fellows.
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Dr Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa
Chair of the Uganda Schistosomiasis Multidisciplinary Research Center steering committee
Dr. Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa is a Scientist with over seventeen years of experience in public health. She is the Country Representative of The Carter Center – Uganda. From 2019-2020, she was the Regional Manager for a DFID-funded project called Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ASCEND) – Lot1. Prior to this position, she was the specific Program Manager for Schistosomiasis/STH for ten years and the NTD Program Manager for seven years in the Ministry of Health, Uganda. During this time, she enhanced integration of NTD Programs in Uganda, which enabled the country to eliminate and/or interrupt transmission of Onchocerciasis in most foci, eliminate active form of Trachoma infections in 90% of the endemic districts and Lymphatic filariasis as well as reduce Schistosomiasis-related morbidity.
Edridah has conducted research studies from which she has authored/co-authored more than 60 peer reviewed articles. She has won several travel awards to participate in international conferences where she has made keynote addresses and presented on several panel discussion platforms. In 2017, she won the global award for the best performing woman in the control and elimination of NTDs.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree (1990), Master’s degree in Environmental Health (2001) and a PhD in Public Health (2011), all from Makerere University – Uganda. She has supervised and/or examined post graduate students in National and international Universities.
VICTORIA BUKIRWA is the project Manager for U-SMRC. She has vast experience in monitoring and evaluation of national and international developmental projects. Her expertise is formulation and implementation of results-based management principles and approaches. She currently leads all monitoring and evaluation and learning activities U-SMRC.
She has a Bachelor of Science in Quantitative Economics from Makerere University, Uganda, and a Degree of Master of Medical Sciences with a major in Public Health Sciences, Health Economics, Policy and Management, Sweden.
Professor Russ Stothard
Russ currently is member of the WHO technical advisory group for soil-transmitted helminthiasis and schistosomiasis, chairing the latter panel. At Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, he is Professor of Medical Parasitology and has studied various human and animal parasites, exploring their epidemiology and control. His particular favourites are the schistosomes and especially their intermediate host snails. His 1995 PhD work was undertaken on Zanzibar that revealed useful information on the zonation of urogenital schistosomiasis on the island, still useful today. As part of nascent operations of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, from 2002 he developed close links with Vector Control Division. Here in Uganda, he helped to highlight and address the medical inequities of schistosomiasis control in pre-school-aged children. Today, Russ is most active in Malawi, revealing a new freshwater snail fauna and its dynamic interplay with hybrid schistosomiasis and polyparasitic disease.
Professor Matt Berriman
Matt Berriman is a professor of parasite genomics at the University of Glasgow. For more than 20 years he has worked on the comparative and functional genomics of major parasite species. This has included leading international genome projects for more than 30 major parasite species and establishing WormBase ParaSite as the community portal for accessing helminth genomes. With a particular interest in schistosomes, his team use the parasite life cycle, established in-house, as a foundation for large-scale exploration of key genes involved in parasite development and host-pathogen interactions. They also use genome variation between species and within populations to discover regions of the genome with unusual properties, such as those showing the effects of selection or subject to other evolutionary changes.
Dr Gyaviira Nkurunungi
Dr. Gyaviira Nkurunungi is a senior scientist with major research focus on the immunomodulating effects of chronic infections on communicable and non-communicable diseases, and on vaccine immunogenicity and effectiveness.
He holds a PhD in immuno-epidemiology (2016-2019) and an MSc in immunology (2013-2014) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His PhD focused on immunological mechanisms of helminth-allergy associations in rural and urban Uganda, with an emphasis on antibody studies.1,2,3 Earlier in his career, He contributed to work on childhood tuberculosis infection, describing utility of interferon-gamma release assays in Ugandan children, at the time hailed as the ‘100-year upgrade’ in TB diagnosis.4
Currently, He leads the immunology team on an MRC UKRI-funded programme of Ugandan trials assessing population differences in vaccine-specific responses.5 His EDCTP-funded preparatory fellowship (2021) and Wellcome-funded early-career training fellowship (2022-2025) use samples from these trials, and cutting-edge wet lab techniques and integrative computational approaches, for studies aimed at unravelling biological predictors of vaccine response. He is also the immunology work package lead on the NIH-funded Uganda Schistosomiasis Multidisciplinary Research Centre, which aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the biological drivers of severe schistosomal morbidity.
Dr Patrice Mawa Akusa
Dr. Patrice Mawa Akusa is a biomedical scientist with interest in immunology of infection and vaccines. He holds a PhD in immunology from University of London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), United Kingdom.
Through postdoctoral Fellowships from European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit, Dr. Mawa is currently studying immune responses to infection and treatment of Schistosoma mansoni in preschool-aged children to inform development and deployment of vaccines and immunotherapy against schistosomiasis.
Patrice is a member of the Uganda National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (UNITAG), a fellow of the African Science Leadership Programme of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and serves on various committees at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), including Research Ethics, Training and HIV/AIDS committees.
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Associate Professor Ponsiano Ocama
Ponsiano Ocama is an Associate Professor and academic hepatologist at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, where he supervises the clinical services for GI/hepatology at Kiruddu National referral and teaching hospital. Ponsiano’s major research interests are the interactions between viral hepatitis and HIV on liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma in resource-limited settings. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, hepatitis B infection is endemic and generalized HIV epidemics exist. Understanding the consequences of co-infection including hepatocellular carcinoma is crucial to inform approaches for targeting screening or secondary prevention with antiviral therapy. Ponsiano is Principle investigator/Co–investigator on several National Institutes of Health funded projects mainly on liver cancer and HIV, impact of schistosoma mansoni infection in HBV infected patients on development of HCC and morbidity caused by Schistosoma mansoni in Uganda. He is also involved in teaching and supervision of a number of students in Makerere University at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Ritah Namagembe is the Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant for U-SMRC. She has vast experience in monitoring and evaluation of objective oriented developmental projects. Her expertise is in tracking, reporting, monitoring and developing performance metrics. Forward-thinking and strategic with a comprehensive view of the production process, including how to accurately measure progress beyond simply reporting numbers.
She has a Bachelor of Economics and Statistics from Kyambogo University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Monitoring and Evaluation from Uganda Management Institute, Uganda.
Agnes Natukunda is a statistician with the MRC/Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit, with expertise in applying statistical methodologies to address research questions, particularly in the field of vaccine research. She is currently a PhD candidate at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Her PhD project focuses on understanding causes of geographical differences in vaccine responses with a focus on parasitic infections as one of the drivers. She is also the Epidemiology and Analysis work package co-lead on the NIH-funded Uganda Schistosomiasis Multidisciplinary Research Centre, which aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the biological drivers of severe schistosomal morbidity.