The NAVCOV-19 team at the National Science Week, 2022 in Kololo: Asst Prof Sheila Balinda, Mr Chrisian Ndikize (PhD candidate), Ms. Fortunate Natwijuka (PhD candidate), Dr Anne Kapaata, Ms Noreen Nabiryo & Mr Dennis Omara (PhD candidate)
Post-COVID-19 African renaissance has ushered self-help solutions into the African Union including the vaccine development enterprise in Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa amongst others. Uganda is one of these African countries exploring vaccine development opportunities. In fact, the NAVCOV-19 team at the MRC Unit in collaboration with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biosecurity (COVAB) at Makerere University is conducting pre-clinical studies for a novel adenovector vaccine, based on original Uganda Chimpanzee adenovectors. This phase will assess the safety, immunogenicity and dosage of the novel adenovector COVID-19 vaccine in mice.
The ground-breaking vaccine discovery work, which is funded by the Uganda Government and sponsored by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) has a capacity skills transfer component with three Doctoral students registered at Makerere University including Mr. Denis Omara, who is conducting the pre-clinical laboratory testing component. Some of these experiments include Dry Run Test; Sacrifice and harvest of samples; Splenocyte Isolation and quantification.
Human capital development key in vaccine discovery work
Dennis has received substantial training in preparation for this pilot component of the research. This includes mouse handling including cages, breeding, feeding, mouse health, labelling, restraining during product administration, & administration of products including the oral, intra-muscular (IM), intra-venous (IV), intra-dermal (ID) and intra-peritoneal (IP) routes.
Overall, the team is excited and looks forward to the preliminary findings following the preclinical animal experiments vaccine discovery work to inform the next steps in early phase trials in humans. While there are numerous COVID-19 vaccine products in the market and the COVID-19 disease burden has plummeted globally, complete with retracting travel measures, this work provides an open capacity platform for various COVID-19 candidates as well as other diseases of epidemic potential such as Ebola and Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever. Indeed our work contributed to Uganda’s epidemic preparedness in line with the National Action Plan for Health Security and the International Health Regulations 2005.
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