Grace Nabakooza is a third-year MUII-Plus PhD research fellow at Makerere University and Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). She is an emerging infectious disease researcher keen on genomics, drug and vaccine development, programming and tool development, data analysis, and visualization. Grace believes genomics and edge-cutting informatics tools are central to discovering and translating research into effective control and preventive approaches like drugs and vaccines to enhance public and global health.
For her PhD research (in collaboration with the WHO National Influenza Centre (NIC) at UVRI), Grace is using viral genomes to investigate how influenza viruses that cause influenza respiratory infections every year emerge, evolve, and are transmitted within Ugandan and African human populations. Knowing where the viruses come from, how they change, and move from one person or location to another will inform national health policies, public health, and global vaccine and drug development.
Achievements in science
Through her 8-year research journey, Grace generated and published the first and largest whole-genome dataset for influenza viruses in Uganda, developed a python tool to construct and visualize the global transmission network of HIV-1, discovered an unusual infant CD8 T cell phenotype that prompted further investigation and confirmed a high prevalence (100%) of Cytomegalovirus (CMV) in Ugandan one-year-olds, published research findings in reputable peer-reviewed journals. Research has provided a platform for her to meet and work with local and international experts, thus learning and gaining excellent laboratory, programming and data analysis, writing and result-dissemination, communication, and interpersonal skills. During the COVID-19 lock down, she created a support programme to help local doctoral students progress smoothly through their academic programs. Within 7 months, the programme has grown from 5 to 17 students registered at universities in Uganda, South Africa, and Germany, and each student has progressed remarkably amidst the pandemic.
What are your aspirations in science?
Grace is enthusiastic about global health. Her long-term goal is to be part of a team focusing on genomics, vaccine and drug development, and tool development to enhance healthcare and livelihood.