New Director announced for MRC Unit in Uganda

Professor Moffat Nyirenda has been announced as the new Director of the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit (MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit). He will take over the role from Professor Pontiano Kaleebu on 1 April 2024.
Professor Moffat Nyirenda speaking with a microphone in hand

Prof Nyirenda is currently Deputy Director at the MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit, Professor of Medicine and Global Non-Communicable Diseases, and Head of the Unit’s Non-Communicable Disease Research theme.

His prominent career has ranged from molecular medicine to clinical and public health research, including investigations into non-communicable diseases, particularly around diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. He also has a strong interest in capacity building across Africa.

Prof Nyirenda holds a PhD in Molecular Medicine from the University of Edinburgh and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He worked at the University of Edinburgh with the support of the MRC Clinician Scientists Fellowship award, and returned to his home country as Associate Director of Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Research Programme and subsequently Director of the Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit before joining the MRC/UVRI &LSHTM Uganda Research Unit in 2016.

Upon accepting the offer, he said: “I am deeply honoured and excited to take on the role of Director of this exceptional Unit at this pivotal moment. I look forward to contributing to its further growth, creating new opportunities, strengthening our research themes in strategic areas, forging intentional collaborations and partnerships, and maximising the capacity to translate our research. The stars are aligned for our collective success as a hub for excellence in research and training in the region."

LSHTM Director, Liam Smeeth, welcomed the announcement: “We had a very strong field of applicants for the role, but Prof Nyirenda impressed us with his vision for the Unit, his calm authority, and obvious quality as a scientific leader. I very much look forward to working in partnership with him to build on the success of the Unit. An opportunity for me to express huge thanks and appreciation to Prof Kaleebu for his amazing work heading the Unit for the past 13 years. During this time the Unit has made many important contributions, not least to the COVID-19 pandemic in the East African region.”

MRC Executive Chair Prof Patrick Chinnery, said: "I am delighted that Professor Moffat Nyirenda will be the new Director of MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit. Prof Nyirenda is an outstanding researcher in endocrinology and metabolic disease with a deep understanding of the Unit and its potential from his current role as Deputy Director. I am excited about his forward-looking vision which will further strengthen the Unit as an international hub for world-leading science that not only addresses key health challenges faced by communities in Uganda, but also has global relevance by tackling fundamentally important questions.

“In this, he will build on a substantial legacy from the outgoing Director, Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, who has led the Unit effectively for over 13 years and ensured its research translated into real-world policies with real benefits to patients both locally and regionally."

During Prof Kaleebu’s tenure he oversaw many achievements including expanding the Unit’s research expertise beyond HIV into other viral pathogens, vaccine research and non-communicable diseases, and training many young scientists as the next generation of health leaders. He will now be devoting his time to immunovirology research.

The appointment follows an extensive recruitment process from a panel that included public health experts from across African and UK institutes, coordinated by a specialist executive search firm.

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