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Biography

Pontiano Kaleebu is the Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and Director of MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit.

The UVRI is the largest Government Research Institution in Uganda dealing in health research pertaining to human infections and disease processes associated with or linked to viral etiology and is host to a number of partner organizations including those funded by US CDC, US NIH, MRC-UK and IAVI, as well as national and regional reference laboratories. The MRC Unit is one of the two MRC-UK Units outside of the United Kingdom and is a multidisciplinary programme studying the HIV epidemic in rural and urban settings, emerging and re-emerging infections and non-communicable diseases. He heads the Pathogen Genomics, Phenotype and Immunity Programme of the Unit.

The Unit became part of LSHTM in 2018.

He holds a medical degree from Makerere University and a PhD from Imperial College, London. He is a professor of immunovirology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Department of Infection Biology; a Fellow of Royal College of Physicians-Edinburgh and a Fellow of Imperial College London, Faculty of Medicine.

As UVRI Director, he sits on the top and senior management of the Ministry of Health. He leads a number of national and regional networks including the EDCTP East African Networks of Excellence. He is a co-Director of the African Partnership for Chronic Disease Research (APCDR). He is co-director of the Uganda Medical Informatics Center (UMIC); a computational resource offering data storage and analysis capacity. He chairs the national HIV drug resistance Technical working group under the Ministry of Health and a member of the National Antiretroviral Treatment committee.

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Biography

In his role as Chief Operating Office at MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit Jonas ensures that the Unit has the best staff and physical assets as well as robust procedures to conduct world class research that improves health and health equity world-wide. Prior to starting at the Ugandan Unit Jonas was working at MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM as Research Governance & Support Services Manager. This involved oversight and driving operational efficiency of 5 research support departments as well as ensuring the Unit’s research portfolio met international and local regulations and standards and best ethical practice. In line with this he secured EDCTP- funding to support ethics review capacities in Ghana, Ethiopia and The Gambia and is leading the Coast to Coast- Transcontinental Ethics Partnership.

For the coming year Jonas is looking forward to working with Scientists and all Unit staff towards reaching the Unit goal of becoming the leading health research institute in the region. When asked how this will be achieved he says, “We are a research Unit and our strength is in unity across programmes and departments. By working together we will continue to be successful in realising ever more tangible change for people’s health in Uganda, East Africa and the world.”


Biography

Professor Janet Seeley is a social anthropologist by training and holds a PhD in the same subject from the University of Cambridge. She is a Professor of Anthropology and Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Before joining the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in April 2014, she was Professor of International Development at the University of East Anglia. She worked for the Department for International Development for 13 years, prior to moving to the University of East Anglia in 2000.

Professor Seeley was responsible for establishing Social Science research within the MRC/UVRI Unit in 1989-1993, a programme she returned to and has headed since 2008 (now called the Social Aspects of Health Programme). She has been actively engaged in research related to, particularly HIV, since 1987, working in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Other current research interests include chronic poverty and social protection, internal migration, livelihoods and gender. She has undertaken periods of research in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Papua New Guinea.

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Biography

Alison Elliott is a Professor of Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. She has worked full-time in Uganda since 1997. She holds an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, MBBS from the University of London and MD from the University of Cambridge, as well as a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and she is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and of the UK Royal College of Physicians. As well as the Vaccines and Immunity Programme, she leads the Makerere University- UVRI Centre of Excellence for Infection and Immunity Research and Training (MUII-plus; http://www.muii.org.ug/ ). She has served on the interim Scientific Advisory Committee of the EDCTP, and the selection panel for GLOBVAC (the “program for global helse - og vaksinasjonsforskning” of the Research Council of Norway). She currently serves on the Uganda Ministry of Health’s technical committee for Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Her interests focus on interactions between co-infections, and on the effects of helminth infection on immune responses to vaccines and on infectious and allergic disease incidence in children in Uganda; and on research capacity building in Africa.


Biography

Professor Moffat Nyirenda is a Diabetologist/Endocrinologist and Professor of Medicine (Global Non-Communicable Diseases) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

Before joining MRC/UVRI Unit, Moffat was Director of Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit (previously known as the Karonga Prevention Study. He holds a BSc in Immunology (University of London), MBBS (“hybrid” training between University of London and University of Malawi), and PhD in Molecular Medicine (University of Edinburgh). Having trained/worked in Edinburgh for over 15 years (where he was supported by a prestigious MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship), in 2010 Moffat returned to Malawi to take up the position of Professor of Research at the College of Medicine and Associate Director of Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme. Moffat’s research interests lie in mechanistic understanding (clinical and laboratory phenotyping) of the aetiology of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including i) investigating the association between early environmental insults and the risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension in adulthood; ii) using cross-cutting approaches to examine the interactions between infection and NCDs; iii) contributing to genomics studies of NCDs in sub-Saharan Africa. Moffat has particular interest in research capacity building in Africa, and was Director of the Southern Africa Consortium for Research Excellence (SACORE), funded through the Wellcome Trust’s African Institutions Initiative.

He serves on a number of committees, including being chairman of Scientific Advisory Board for GSK Africa NCD Open Lab, member of the Wellcome Trust Public Health and Tropical Medicine Interview Committee, member of MRC Global Health NCD Working Group, member of Awards Assessment Panel for Africa Research Excellence (AREF), member of WHO Working Group on integration of NCDs in other programmatic areas, member of the Lancet Commission on Diabetes in Africa, and member of the Non-Communicable Disease Technical Advisory Committee to Malawi Minister of Health.


Biography

Professor Eugene Kinyanda is a senior investigator scientist and head of the mental health project at the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS. He completed his undergraduate studies in Human Medicine at Makerere University and undertook postgraduate training in psychiatry at the same University. He did his PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in the sub-speciality of suicidology. He holds an honorary professor position at the LSHTM in the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health.

Eugene joined the MRC/UVRI initially as a research manager but later went on to start a mental health project at the Unit. Over the last six years he has undertaken research into the psychiatric and psychosocial complications of HIV/AIDS among adults through funding by DfID (as part of the EfA Consortium) and the European-Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme (EDCTP; through a Senior EDCTP Fellowship). He is currently undertaking a research project on children and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS through funding from an MRC/DFID African Leadership Award with the Global Centre for Mental Health at LSHTM.

His other research interests include studies into the psychiatric and psychosocial problems of HIV/AIDS orphans, war affected populations, the epidemiology of common mental disorders and studies into the meanings of suicide from an African perspective. This body of work has led to more than 40 publications in peer reviewed journals.


Biography

Dr Newton is a senior epidemiologist with the Epidemiology and Prevention Programme at MRC/UVRI and a Reader in Clinical Epidemiology at the University of York, UK. He is also a Senior Visiting Scientist at the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. He qualified at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London in 1991 and was subsequently awarded an MRC Research Training Fellowship to work at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit in Oxford (now Cancer Research UK Cancer Epidemiology Unit). In 2005, he moved to the University of York and in 2012 was seconded to work at MRC/UVRI.

He is interested in the role of infectious agents and immune suppression in the etiology of cancer and has particular experience of the conduct of epidemiological research on non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.


Biography

Cotten has a PhD in biochemistry and is a molecular virologist and computational biologist with extensive experience detecting important patterns in the next generation sequencing data from viral pathogens. He has both wet lab and computational skills which have been useful for developing novel next generation sequencing and sequence analysis methods. Cotten has assisted in the work identified camels as a source of MERS-CoV infections and was part of an outbreak sequencing team that generated (from a tent in Sierra Leone) a large number of the Ebola virus genomes from the 2014-1016 West African EBOV outbreak. Cotten has helped established computational methods for full genome next generation sequencing and analysis of a number of medically important viruses including MERS-CoV, Ebola virus, SARS-CoV-2, Yellow Fever virus, Norovirus, Rotavirus and Respiratory syncytial virus as demonstrated by his publication record.

Google scholar link:
https://scholar.google.nl/citations?hl=en&user=6eepOOYAAAAJ

Orcid link:
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3361-3351


Biography

Dr Freddie Mukasa Kibengo is a Project Leader under the Epidemiology and Prevention Programme of MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS. He qualified with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree from Mbarara University of Science and Technology IN 1998 and has a Master of Medicine (Internal Medicine) degree from Makerere University (2005). He has been involved in HIV/AIDS research for 9 years. He has previously worked as a Specialist Physician at Mulago and Mengo Hospitals in Kampala, Uganda. He has conducted research in HIV epidemiological and clinical areas including several HIV vaccine preparatory studies among various most at risk populations (MARPs) in Masaka, Uganda. He has also covered other studies on primary prophylaxis against Cryptococcal meningitis using Fluconazole among HIV infected Ugandans (phase III), Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), phase 1 HIV vaccine trials and phase III Trial of Adjunctive Dexamethasone in HIV infected Adults with Cryptococcal Meningitis. His broad area of interest is interventional clinical studies particularly on HIV/AIDS Care and vaccine development for HIV and other emerging infections.


Biography

He received his PhD at Makerere University Kampala Uganda in 2012 funded by MRC/UVRI. He received a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust funded Makerere University Uganda Virus Research Institute Infection and Immunity programme from 2012 to 2014 to investigate superinfection and disease progression in female sex workers in Uganda.

He is currently a Senior Scientist with the Unit. In particular his work involves the study of the virological and immunological correlates of HIV-1 superinfection. This work involves the use of next generation sequencing with phylogenetic analysis to determine HIV-1 superinfection and neutralization assays to determine the development of neutralizing antibodies prior to and after superinfection. His other research interests include studies on HIV-1 drug resistance and molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in Uganda. He is also involved in H3ABionet, a network tasked to develop bioinformatics capacity in Africa. With colleagues at Makerere University, he is involved in the BRecA (Bioinformatics Research Capacity in Africa, 2017-2022) project that will establish sustainable programs at Makerere University to produce a critical mass of Bioinformaticians.

He was awarded an EDCTP career development fellowship to study the Immunological Selection of Recombinants following HIV-1 Superinfection (2016-2019).


Biography

Dr Yunia Mayanja is a project leader, under the HIV Epidemiology and Intervention Programme of the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit. She qualified with a degree in medicine and surgery, and has post graduate training in Public Health (MPH).

She has been involved in HIV/AIDS research for the last 7 years; previously having worked as a physician on a project to roll out antiretroviral treatment (ART) to rural health facilities in rural Uganda and later to implement HIV prevention strategies among women involved in high risk sexual behavior (female sex workers) in Kampala, Uganda. Her work among key populations has also involved studies on HIV-1 super-infection and preparedness studies for future HIV vaccine efficacy trials.

In the past 3 years her scope of work has expanded to include epidemiological studies among adolescents and young women. She is a career development fellow on a project conducting research among 15-19 year old adolescents with epidemiological outcomes including HIV and STI prevalence and incidence, substance use, reproductive health outcomes and intimate partner violence. This project is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union. She has also received funding from IAVI and is currently the Principal investigator on a study that is looking at different aspects (knowledge, preferences, and uptake) of biomedical HIV prevention interventions.


Biography

His current research goal is to apply his expertise in fundamental cellular immunology to the investigation of tuberculosis in Uganda, a setting in which this disease is still highly endemic. In his previous posts, he undertook research into lymphocyte migration and trafficking, studies which were performed in mice and gave him key skills in isolating lymphocytes from tissues, multi parameter flow cytometry and immunofluorescence techniques.

He joined the MRC/UVRI research Unit on AIDS in 2009 and his focus has since changed to human Immunology. He is a named co-investigator and project lead on an MRC funded project to look at whether a latent TB infection in mothers affects their infant’s response to BCG. He is also undertaking other projects like the non-specific effects of BCG in infants and a post-mortem study being piloted at Mulago Hospital collaboration with the Pathology Department to look at the immune response to TB in the tissues, the site at where the infection is.

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Biography

Tobias Vudriko started working with MRC/UVRI in February 1999 as medical Laboratory technologist. He pioneered the setup of serology and molecular biology sections of the CDLS department. He has BSc PH (IHSU), DMLT (MUK), DMA (CTC-UK), and is due to be awarded APGDCR-QA (JIL-India). His interest is to pursue higher medical and health research training through applied integration of genomics, molecular epidemiology and preventive medicine.

He is very optimistic that, the applied integration would significantly contribute to alleviating Global health problems and bridging the ‘10/90 gap’.


Biography

Dr Jennifer Serwanga is a cellular Immunologist in the area of HIV/AIDS. She received her PhD training at Murdoch University, Western Australia, after accomplishing a BVM degree at Makerere University, Kampala. She is a scientific leader in Immunology, Basic Science programme where she takes charge of a team that aims to improve understanding of correlates of protection in HIV-1 disease progression, resistance to infection and HIV-1 super infection that will inform relevant vaccine formulation.

She is directly involved in the research activities undertaken by the team, in mentoring their career development, and in providing targeted training to support their undertaken research. The involved research areas include: studies to evaluate alternative reagents for assessing clade A and D cellular responses; screening clade A and D infected populations for correlates of broadly neutralising antibodies; evaluating pre-existing immunity to Adenoviruses to provide information relevant for vaccine design; and defining T-Cell correlates of protection in HIV clade A and D populations.

Dr. Serwanga is involved in developing Immunology capacity in the country by supporting laboratory capacity building, training in the annual ‘Immunology in the tropics’ course and providing methodological support and training in flow cytometry and neutralisation assay procedures. Over the years, she has taken lead in coordinating the Institutional effort to mitigate consequences associated with handling and working with potentially infectious hazardous chemical and biological agents. She currently serves on Ministry of Health advisory panels including the National Infection Control Committee and the National Committee for the Laboratory Containment of Polio.


Biography

Dr Sylvia Kusemererwa heads the IPM project at the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS field station in Masaka. She holds a degree in Medicine and Surgery as well as a Master in Public Health from Makerere University.

She was involved in HIV treatment and care for four years at The AIDS Support Organization. She participated in the Partner’s PrEP study and currently coordinates the Ring Study evaluating the safety and efficacy of a vaginal microbicide.


Biography

Dr Rwamahe Rutakumwa is a Post-Doctoral Social Scientist in the Social Science Research Programme. He holds a baccalaureate in Social Sciences from Makerere University, as well as a MSc. and a PhD in Rural Sociology from the University of Alberta, Canada. His research background is in the area of poverty and health, public policy in the developing world, and how structural forces at national and global levels interface to impact the incidence of and efforts to alleviate poverty.

In the 11 years prior to joining the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, Rwamahe was involved in multiple social science and health research projects and has authored/co-authored various publications. Though his current research cuts across the three thematic areas of the Social Science research program, he is especially interested in structural drivers of HIV and other illnesses.


Biography

Harriet is a clinician and epidemiologist whose main research interest is investigating the causes of the increasing prevalence of asthma and other chronic inflammatory diseases in developing countries. She obtained her Master’s degree (Epidemiology) and PhD training from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She joined the MRC Unit in 2003 to work with the Entebbe Mother and Baby Study (EMaBS). She took an active role in aspects of EMaBS investigating the relationship between worm infections and allergic conditions, and has published in this area. She is currently a Wellcome Trust fellow investigating the risk factors associated with asthma among children in Uganda, with emphasis on chronic immune-modulating infections such as worms and malaria. With colleagues within the Co-infections Studies Programme, she is interested in the possible therapeutic role of worms in the management of asthma and other chronic inflammatory diseases.


Biography

Agnes holds a bachelor’s degree in Social work and Social Administration, an MA degree in Social Sector Planning and Management from Makerere University, a post graduate diploma in Public health from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a PhD in International Development from the University of East Anglia, Norwich in the United Kingdom.

She has over twenty years’ experience of social and behavioural research in various programs, including collaborative efforts in prevention of HIV and AIDS targeting different groups of people including discordant couples. She has been involved in strategic planning and management of research outputs and has also been part of clinical trials to try and understand the behavioural issues that influence participation in clinical research. She served on the UVRI ethics committee for 4 years (2007-2010).

She currently works as a behavioural scientist in an intervention targeting HIV and AIDS prevention among women at high risk, their regular partners and their children in a programme in Kampala- the Good Health for Women Project ( GHWP). The focus of her current research interest is the ethics of conduct of research, particularly the informed consent process in research. She is also interested in the prevention of structural drivers of HIV and AIDS particularly facing women at high risk at the work place. The effects of HIV and AIDS on the regular sex partners and the children of the women at high risk.


Biography

Monica Badaru is the Finance Manager at the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS.

Monica has over 10 years‘ experience as an accountant and has worked with the Unit for the last 3 years as Senior Accountant.

She holds a Bachelor‘s of Commerce degree from Makerere University, Accountancy Certificate with ACCA and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University, University of Edinburgh.


Biography

Jacqueline completed her PhD in Clinical Investigative Science - Immunology with Imperial College, London in 2012. The title of her thesis was, “Immunologic, Virologic and Genetic Studies of HIV-1 infected Long-term Non-progressors (LTNP) in Uganda”. The main objective of this study was to examine and define immune correlates of protection against disease progression mediated by HIV-1-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T-cells. All this work was undertaken at the MRCU and IAVI labs in Entebbe.

After her PhD, she continued working in the HIV field. She is a co-investigator on the Cotrimoxazole Immunology study (investigating microbial translocation and immune activation).

In Jan 2015, she won an IAVI Investigator Initiated Research award to undertake a research project on “Effect of pre-existing immune status and endemic infections on Hepatitis B vaccine mediated immune responses among HIV negative adult Ugandans” for which she is a co-Principal investigator.


Biography

Sarah is the Field Station Administrator for the Masaka field station. She has worked with MRC since 1994 and her office supports the Research Scientists to carry on their Research by coordinating Transport, Finances and Supplies.


Biography

Dr Femke Bannink Mbazzi is a clinical and educational psychologist, and cultural anthropologist with 15+ years' research and clinical work experience in mental health and disability inclusion in Uganda.

She is an Assistant Professor at the MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit, FWO post doc fellow at Ghent University.

Dr Femke is the Principal Investigator of the 'Obuntu bulamu' inclusive education study and Co-Investigator on 'The impact of COVID related measures on vulnerable populations' / iCOVID study with Prof Dr Janet Seeley.

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Biography

Dr Ubaldo M Bahemuka is a Clinical Epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute & London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Uganda Research Unit.

He is also a member of the Lake Victoria Consortium for Health Research. Most of his work at the unit is focused on understanding the epidemiology and prevention of HIV and STI’s in Uganda especially within high risk populations such as; fisher folk, sex workers and HIV discordant couples among others.

His work interest areas are centred around clinical trials to assess safety and efficacy of HIV prevention technologies such as HIV vaccines.

His work has also contributed significantly to the clinical assessment of trials on HIV prevention strategies such as; HIV vaccines, Vaginal microbicides, PrEP, STI treatment and socio-behavioural change interventions.

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