- The UVRI engages in health research pertaining to human infections and disease processes associated with or linked to viral aetiology and provides expert advice, enables partnerships and communication and serves as a center for training and education.
- UVRI conducts research, surveillance and diagnostics. The Institute’s programmatic activities currently comprise of the following areas:
- Basic research (e.g virology, immunology, genetics, genomics, molecular biology)
- Applied research (intervention, diagnostics, clinical, operational)
- Social/economic research
- Capacity building through infrastructure and human resource development
- Advice for regulation, policy development and quality improvement
We are home to several national and international reference and specialized testing laboratories including:
- The national and regional reference center for vector borne viral diseases;
- The national influenza Ccnter, a WHO influenza collaborating laboratory;
- The national diagnostic laboratory for highly infectious viral infections;
- The Africa WHO yellow fever reference laboratory;
- The national HIV reference and quality assurance laboratory;
- The national and regional reference laboratory for HIV drug resistance,
- A WHO Measles and Rubella Regional Reference laboratory and
- WHO Inter-country Polio laboratory.
Functions of UVRI
The Institute functions include:
- Disease prevention and control
- Epidemiological investigations and surveillance
- Conducts basic and other public health related research
- Involved in emergency preparedness
- Engaged in reference and specialised testing
- Participates in environment health and protection
- Enables partnerships and communication
- Offers training and education to an array of professions such as scientists, clinicians, public health specialists and environmental officers.
- Archiving of specimens
- The Institute is organized under 5 major technical and 1 administrative departments, which are closely inter-related. Each department is headed by an Assistant Director of Research assisted by a Principal Research Officer, all of whom are under the supervision of the Institute’s Director. The scientific departments are facilitated by administration and finance support services. There are also two Units, the Immunisable Diseases Unit (IDU) or the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and the UVRI clinic or Clinical Unit for Research, that serves both Institute staff and the surrounding community; and also undertakes research. In addition, there is a training function spearheaded by a Training Committee.
- To be a world class centre of excellence in health research
- To conduct scientific investigations on viral and other communicable diseases so as to contribute to knowledge, policy, practice and build capacity while promoting institutional sustainability.
- Productivity and quality
- Ethics and integrity
- Effectiveness and efficiency
- Team work and collaboration
- Biosafety and biosecurity
Key Functions of the Directorate, Departments and Units at the Uganda Virus Research Institute
The Office of the Director (Head of Programmes and Partnerships)
The Director is the Chief of programmes and partnerships; and the Accounting Officer. He is supported by the Deputy Director. The Director is responsible for providing leadership to the research community, for advancing the research vision of the Institute, and for overseeing research excellence of programmes, projects and activities directly associated with the Institute. He ensures smooth working relationship with all partners at the Institute, i.e CDC, MRC/UVRI & LSHTM, UVRI/IAVI and NIH.
As the accounting officer, he controls the regularity and proper use of money appropriated to the vote; responsible for authorizing any commitment made by the vote and controls the resources received or disposed of by a vote. He is responsible and accountable to Parliament for the activities of the vote.
The Director reports to UNHRO and MoH in the execution of their oversight role.
The Office of the Deputy Director (Chief Research Officer (CRO)
The Deputy Director and Chief Research Officer acts as deputy to the Director and assists the director in the management and supervision of the various departments and Units and acts as the Chief Research Officer of the institute.
Finance and Administration Department
Finance and Administration is headed by the Principal Assistant Secretary. Its mandate is to guide the Institution in the implementation of government policies and regulations, to facilitate recruitment, staff development and welfare as well as control expenditure in the Institution.
- Supervise and monitor implementation of government policy at institutional and community levels
- Coordinate social mobilization and political supervision of Institute’s activities
- Management and payment of utilities for the Institute’s departments
- Assists the accounting officer in the control of expenditure and accountability.
- Produce financial reports for management
- Pay salaries and wages
- Draft contracts, agreements and memoranda
- Repair and maintenance of office premises and equipment
- Provision of office logistics and stationery
- Transport management
- Organize welfare activities
- Provide security for office premises
These are different sections under Finance & Administration
- Human Resource Management and Development (HRM&D);
- Procurement and Disposal
- Infrastructure Maintenance and Development
Each science department is headed by an Assistant Director for Research
Department of Epidemiology and data management
The department conducts epidemiological research and data management. It also supports response to disease outbreaks. The department is mandated to:
- Carry out epidemiological research in HIV/AIDS, STDs, malaria and acute viral outbreaks
- Provide epidemiological and statistical support to the Institute departments
This department works very closely with the key partners at the institute especially the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit and Rakai Health Sciences.
Department of General Virology
It conducts research at a molecular and cellular level for different virus aetiologies. The department’s mandate includes:
- Carrying out virological research to generate new knowledge and to lead to disease prevention and intervention strategies in Uganda and internationally
- Evaluation and development of diagnostic tests
- Carrying out studies related to viruses associated with human cancers (HHV8, HPV-16&18, EBV, etc)
- Works closely with the MOH, MRC/UVRI & LSHTM and the department of Epidemiology and Data management to implement the national activities for HIV drug resistance surveillance and prevention
- Hosts the national HIV reference laboratory activities
- Provision of diagnostic quality assurance, quality control for HIV, hepatitis and others, and
- Capacity building
- The department also works very closely with the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM in other virology research and capacity building
Department of Entomology/Vector Biology
It engages in research on the vectors of viral infections, especially mosquitoes. The department focuses on the;
- Study of various insect vectors in the transmission of arbovirus infections, and
- Study of other arthropods connected with other diseases of public health importance such as malaria vectors
The department has an insectary
Department of Immunology
It undertakes studies of the protection of the body against infection especially viral infections and protective immune responses required for the development of vaccines and diagnostics. The department’s mandate includes:
- Studies of innate, cellular and humoral immunity
- Immunomodulation including studies of disease interactions
- Vaccine research and development
Department of Arbovirology Emerging & Re-Emerging
It aims at research on diseases transmitted by arthropods and old as well as newly emerging infections. The department serves as a national and international reference centre for vector-borne and zoonotic viral infectious diseases by:
- Conducting field and laboratory research and epidemic aid investigations of vector-borne viral infections, their arthropod vectors and zoonotic diseases,
- Developing and maintaining effective surveillance for vector-borne viral infections, their arthropod vectors,
- Defining disease etiology, ecology, and pathogenesis for disease diagnosis, surveillance, prevention and control,
- Provide diagnostic reference and epidemiological investigations for these diseases;
- Functioning as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Arboviruses,
- Functioning as National Influenza Centre.
- Yellow Fever regional reference laboratory
Immunisable Diseases Unit (IDU) formerly EPI Lab
The Unit is mandated to:
- Carry out surveillance and research on vaccine preventable diseases to support UNEPI;
- Provide laboratory support for Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance for the countries in the Great Lakes Region;
- Function as a WHO Measles Regional Reference Laboratory;
- Conduct vaccine efficacy studies;
Clinical Unit for Research (UVRI clinic)
The Clinical Unit for Research previously UVRI Clinic conducts applied research on viral infectious diseases and provides clinical services to staff and the community. The mandate of the unit includes:
- Providing basic essential clinical care to the research volunteers
- Providing basic clinical services to staff and the immediate family members
- Serving as a health centre, supervised by Entebbe Hospital, in Entebbe Health Sub-District (HSD)
- Providing HIV routine counselling & testing (RCT) to communities and occupational HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
- Supports clinical research by recruiting and following up research participants
Support Centres or sections
Planning & Fundraising
Planning and Fundraising is a functional area that was created to coordinate all the planning related functions. Their creation bridges the gap in the existing structure and harmonizes the functions of planning; budgeting; M&E, and information and documentation.
The section is headed by a Senior Economist.
Key functions of the Planning and Fundraising section
- Facilitate proposal writing and channeling to potential funders
- Fund raising
- Develop five year and annual work plans for the Institute
- Budgeting for institute activities
- Policy development and dissemination
- Human resource planning and forecasting
Other functions are to;
- Review, revise and update the UVRI development plan (DP);
- Coordinate the preparation of the Institute plan;
- Compile the plans of the various functional areas into a complete institution plan;
- Assist the functional areas in the development, review and implementation of their DPs;
- Conduct training in planning at all levels of the institution system;
- Keep up to date with current methodologies and technologies in planning; and
- Assist UVRI in developing more effective and relevant operational plans.
Internal Audit (IA); The section conducts internal audits. Because of its constitutional mandate and direct linkage with the Auditor General’s Office reports directly to the Director.
- To carry out surveillance and research on vaccine preventable diseases
- To support laboratory backed surveillance of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) in the countries of the Great Lake region
- To carry out measles and rubella surveillance in support of the Uganda National Expanded program for Immunisation.
- To carry out vaccine potency testing for polio and measles vaccines.
- To carry out research on vaccine preventable diseases.
- To function as a WHO Measles and Rubella Regional Reference Laboratory.
- The EPI laboratory is a designated WHO-Inter-country polio laboratory since 1996 and a WHO Measles and Rubella Regional Reference Laboratory since 2000. The laboratory acts a national measles and polio laboratory supporting the Uganda National Expanded program (UNEPI) in monitoring its performance. The laboratory is WHO accredited to perform Polio, Measles and Rubella laboratory activities. The laboratory has nineteen staff. This includes five Research officers, two Scientific officers, three laboratory technologists, two laboratory assistants, two data clerks, two administrative assistants (one also working as a data clerk) and four support staff (two drivers and two janitors).
- As a WHO Inter-country Polio laboratory, the EPI Laboratory serves Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda. In this role, the laboratory carries out laboratory backed Acute Flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance for all the countries above. The laboratory cultures stool samples for entero-viruses in search for Wild poliovirus and Vaccine derived Poliovirus. In addition, the laboratory carries out Environmental surveillance for Polio from sewage samples from South Sudan and Uganda. After the growth of enteroviruses from stool and, or sewage the laboratory confirms the presence or absence of wild poliovirus and vaccine derived poliovirus through intra-typic differentiation, a method that uses Real time PCR test.
- As a WHO Measles and Rubella Regional Reference Laboratory the laboratory serves Comoros, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda supporting the national measles laboratories in those countries. The roles of the laboratory in this capacity include carrying out quality assurance activities for the countries served. This includes training of staff in measles and rubella diagnostics, quality control testing for the serological tests carried out and review/accreditation visits to the national measles laboratories on WHO request. Additional roles of the laboratory include distribution of measles and rubella testing kits and reagents and serology proficiency panels to the laboratories served or to other countries in WHO AFRO region on request from WHO. The laboratory carries out measles and rubella virus isolation and characterization for the national measles laboratories served that do not have the capacity to do so. In this role the laboratory provides information on the circulating measles and rubella strains causing outbreaks in that country. The laboratory also carries out research on measles and rubella virus and provides technical advice to WHO.
- The EPI Laboratory supports UNEPI in various activities. This includes provision of information on whether there is any circulating wild poliovirus or vaccine derived poliovirus, measles or rubella infection or outbreaks in the country. Rubella surveillance includes congenital rubella surveillance at two sentinel sites. This above information provides feedback to UNEPI on its performance in vaccination activities and guides UNEP’s decisions on vaccination interventions. The EPI laboratory carries out vaccine potency testing of oral polio and measles vaccines. In addition, the EPI laboratory trains field officers in collection of samples for polio, measles and rubella surveillance. The laboratory supports UNEPI in supervision of surveillance and immunization activities in the districts.
- The EPI laboratory carries out research on vaccine preventable diseases in various areas including: basic science, epidemiological and operational research. EPI Laboratory has researched on enteroviruses (includes Polio), Measles, Rubella, Rotavirus, Hepatitis and febrile illnesses with rashes. Ongoing research is on Evaluation of feasibility and usability of Measles IgM point of care in the surveillance program and Molecular characterisation of enteroviruses.
- Research activities are carried out in collaboration with Arbovirology Department at the institute, Ministry of Health, WHO, CDC Atlanta, Glassgow University and Public Health England, UK.
Funders for the Lab activities
- Ministry of Health
- World Health Organisation
- Public Health England
- The Clinic Unit for Research was initially a small facility located on the UVRI main campus as one of the sources of many clinical specimens for arbovirology and General virology research from willing human volunteers. It contributed to virus discovery studies. It started providing basic preventive and curative health services to UVRI staff members, including pre-exposure vaccination against yellow fever and hepatitis B infections. With the advent of HIV/AIDS, the clinic soon started research on the epidemic.
The Unit conducts and supports health research to contribute to the mission of UVRI; and provides basic preventive, promotional and curative health services to research volunteers, staff and the neighbouring research community. This clinic serves as a health centre II under Entebbe Health Sub-District.
- The Clinical Unit for Research previously UVRI Clinic conducts applied research on viral infectious diseases. The mandate of the Unit includes:
• Providing basic essential clinical care to the research volunteers
• Providing basic clinical services to staff and the immediate family members
• Serving as a health centre, supervised by Entebbe Hospital, in Entebbe Health Sub-District
• Providing HIV routine counselling & testing to communities and occupational HIV post-exposure prophylaxis
- Supports clinical research by recruiting and following up research participants
The UVRI Clinic conducts and supports health research to contribute to the mission of UVRI within the context of UNHRO, the current National Health Policy and the National Development Plan. It provides basic health services & health promotion to research volunteers, staff and neighboring research community. This clinic serves as a health centre II under Entebbe Health Sub-District (EHSD). It collects routine data to aid Monitoring and Evaluation, planning and prioritization of potential interventions by EHSD and Ministry of Health. It supports training and other capacity building activities at UVRI (including grant sourcing, networking and community mobilization).
- The clinic is located in a strategic place that ensures privacy to our clients, yet easy to access. Our services include Routine HIV testing and counselling, out patients medical care, Family planning, Immunisations, internship training and antenatal services. Over the years, the community has gained confidence in the quality of our services, which has nearly transformed the clinic into a referral-testing centre for HIV testing. We receive a number of clients countrywide referred for HIV test confirmation and other services.
- In the months of July through September 2018, the clinic received 814 clients for OPD services, testing 349 for malaria with 1.7% testing malaria positive. 403 clients for HIV testing services with 3% testing positive, and referred for ART. The clinic offered family planning services to 85 mothers, and 959 children vaccinated, with 56 children receiving DPT3. The clinic actively participates in community services. We aim at extending services to our community as a strategy to promote health. We have had a number of community outreaches, where we have vaccinated 247 ten-year-old girls against HPV.
- The clinic is actively involved in research; currently we are evaluating the Alere q HIV-1/2 Detect as a Supplementary Test in the Uganda National HIV Rapid Testing Algorithm, we expect to complete the study by middle of December 2018. We are also evaluating the usability of the SURE CHECK HIV self-test.
- In the next quarter, in addition to the current services offered by the clinic, we would like to offer antenatal care services to the community, we have already obtained the ANC registers, mother cards and have an enthusiastic senior midwife.
- We thank the UVRI management for the enabling environment and continuous support that has enabled us deliver services to the community.
By Dr. N Kyakuwa and Dr. Bernard Kikaire.
Dr. Nassim Kyakuwa is the in charge of the UVRI Clinic