Thursday, 18 October 2018

UVRI in the Press - 2009




Uganda is new host of Africa HIV programme

December 17, 2009 

By Vernon Tugumizemu

The Entebbe-based Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) has been selected to host the Africa AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP) Secretariat. UVRI defeated eight competitors in seven countries, including research institutions from South Africa, Burundi, Senegal, Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania, said Dr. Alash’le Abimiku, global co-chair of the AAVP.


Abimiku announced UVRI’s successful bid at a press conference held at Kampala Serena Hotel on December 14. The Minister of Health, Dr. Stephen Malinga, said Uganda felt honoured to host the programme.
“As two thirds of the global AIDS epidemic is situated on our continent, we welcome the transfer of African AIDS Vaccine Programme to Africa; Uganda is honoured to have been chosen to host this programme,” Malinga said.
The minister added that because many lives were at risk due to the AIDS pandemic, Uganda will take this responsibility seriously “and pledge to work tirelessly towards the day when a safe, effective HIV vaccine will be available to protect Africans from the pandemic.”
AAVP has since its formation in 2000 been based at WHO headquarters in Geneva. The AAVP secretariat will operate alongside other trial centres in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, in an effort to develop an effective vaccine for HIV. 

“The new AAVP secretariat and four AAVP centres of excellence will provide enhanced support to research and capacity building and networking activities,” said, Dr. Catherine Hankins, chief scientific advisor to UNAIDS



Kaleebu came home to find cure for AIDS

The New Vision, November 29, 2009

By Gladys Kalibbala 

Name: Pontiano Kaleebu 
Age: 49 
Schools attended: Jinja Kaloli Primary School, St Mary's College Kisubi, Kampala High and Makerere University 

DR. Fred Lyagoba, a senior scientific officer at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe recalls how his group struggled to make their places clean after using monkeys and other animals in their research work. The monkeys could attack the men who fed and kept them. 
Lyagoba says in the 1980s they were dealing with attempted virus isolations using one-day-old suckling mice. Dr Pontiano Kaleebu then trained him the group in the techniques of isolating viruses using modern technology like tissue culture and DNA/RNA isolation. 
The group’s work was made easier by Kaleebu’s training and advice. 
“Science has advanced. Instead of getting 20ml of blood samples for a tissue culturing to see a virus in between 14-28 days, I will only need 2ml with results in just a week. We need to have more Kaleebus in this country,” Lyagoba explains. 

Dr. Kaleebu, who has trained many other researchers, says it was towards the end of his training as a medical doctor at Makerere Medical School in 1986 when he first experienced the torture of HIV/AIDS among the patients at the wards. 
During his internship at Nsambya Hospital in 1987, the wards were always full of HIV/AIDS patients. Dr. Merriam Duggan, the medical superintendent at that time, started a special clinic for these patients. 
Whenever he was at the Ward, he always got closer to the patients as he prescribed medicine while asking many questions about how they felt. He confesses that he realised AIDS was not far from him since he saw people he knew of his age coming to the wards coughing terribly and having many disorders.  Kaleebu then made his decision to go in for a full time research career in order to get to the root of this disease, which was getting more complicated every day. 
That is when he saw an opportunity to do a lot of research at UVRI to contribute in getting a cure or a vaccine. 
When he discussed the idea with his mother, she was not happy with him leaving hospital for a research institution, where he would not see patients more often and nobody would ever recognise his work. 

Indeed many doctors were opting to remain in the wards and the idea of a career in research was not popular among the young doctors. 
Luckily, Kaleebu had already made up his mind as he was not satisfied with the methods of only caring for the sick when the epidemic was increasing. 
In late 1987, Kaleebu was asked by then director of UVRI, the late Dr. Sylvester Sempala, to be recruited into UVRI. 

One year after joining UVRI, he was given a scholarship to study immunology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital in London. 

The study exposed him to the basic concepts of immunology and vaccinology and also initiated his contact with experts in HIV research. 

After completing his masters, the university offered him a scholarship for a PhD. He says his stay at the University of London for the PhD benefited him when he worked under a good researcher in HIV/AIDS, Prof. Jonathan Weber, at St Mary's Hospital, London. 

Kaleebu was able to characterise viruses and immune responses from Ugandan patients living in London and those in Uganda. 

He was also exposed to many other international experts participating in the WHO/HIV virus Isolation and characterisation Network. Unlike other colleagues, who opted to remain in Europe and USA, he saw more opportunities in Uganda. 

In 1995, Kaleebu was appointed head of the immunology department and he joined MRC/UVRI research programme in 1996. He says the funding from the UK to UVRI gave them a lot of opportunities. 

"With other colleagues, I concentrated on the work of developing basic research in immunology and virology," he explains. 
Kaleebu says their collaboration with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative has also been important in their efforts to find a vaccine. 
Five years ago, he was chosen to chair the steering committee of this programme with its headquarters in Geneva. 
The programme has contributed to capacity building, advocacy and has been able to address issues around ethics and research regulation in Africa. 
Kaleebu says the programme is soon moving from WHO to become an autonomous organisation based in one of the African countries, where Uganda, Botswana and South Africa have been short listed among the many that bidded. 
“Am hopeful that Uganda will be selected to host this programme because of the work we have done and the commitment shown by the Government.” 

He says if Uganda is chosen, there will be opportunities for more networking in Africa and chances of more funding which will enable more research and train more scientists for the future. 
Kaleebu reveals that they met a lot of opposition as they prepared to start the first HIV/AIDS vaccine trial in 1999. 

"Many people claimed we wanted to use Ugandans like Guinea pigs! We sensitised the masses through the media and after numerous workshops, we ended up with the Cabinet and Parliament for approval. 
UVRI has played a big role in building the local capacity to conduct HIV vaccine research, development and other HIV prevention research and care. All the research is done locally in the laboratories. 
In December, Uganda will host the 5th AAVP Forum, where the first ladies of Uganda and Rwanda among other dignitaries and stakeholders will attend. 

Dr. Kaleebu heads the MRC Basic Science Programme at UVRI and is the acting director of UVRI. 
Contributed to HIV-vaccine research and the training of young scientists in the country. 
Kaleebu leads a Network of Excellence funded by European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) involving 27 institutions in East Africa. 
He is part of the group that started a Programme called African Aids Vaccine Programme (AAVP) in 2001. 
Initiated the HIV-drug resistance prevention, surveillance and monitoring programme. 
Chairs the National HIV-drug resistance working group within the Ministry of Health.



Government should invest in HIV vaccine research


The New Vision: November 27, 2009

UGANDA was the first country in the world to bring down the HIV incidence from 18% to 6.4%. 

The country was also the first in Africa to carry out an HIV vaccine trial in 1999. Dr Pontiano Kaleebu, the acting director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute, says since then, five more vaccine trials have been carried out. 

However, today, experts are worried that with the stagnation of HIV rates and the lack of funds for HIV vaccine research, Uganda could lose its place as the champion in the fight against HIV. 

A vaccine is a product designed to prevent individuals from getting a disease. Vaccines do not cure but help the body develop means of expelling or containing the virus. An ideal HIV vaccine would block HIV from entering the body or slow down the progress of AIDS. 

However, all the vaccine studies done here are originated and funded by donors. 

According to Parliamentary sources, 80% of the country's HIV/AIDS budget is funded by donors and none of the remaining 20% goes into vaccine research. 

Dr Zainab Akol, the HIV/AIDS programme manger at the health ministry, says much as Government does not put money directly into HIV vaccine research, it gives its contribution by harnessing resources to develop infrastructure for vaccine research like laboratory equipment. 

"The Government also spends money on preventative approaches and treatment like anti-retroviral drugs," she says. 

Between December 13 and 15, Uganda will host the fifth International Conference on The African AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP) to drum up support for the scientists who are working on the HIV vaccine. According to the AAVP secretariat, 67% of the global HIV incidence is in Sub-Saharan Africa yet funds for preventive strategies are expected from outside Africa. 

One of the objectives of the conference is to urge Africa's policy makers to give research greater financial support. According to Julius Ecuru, at the National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST), spending on research has almost tripled from sh31b in 2003/04 to about sh82b in 2007/08. 

However, this money does not go to HIV vaccine research because those studies are funded by development partners. The Government funds other research in agriculture, disease, construction and manufacturing, waste management and pollution control studies, he says. 

Ecuru however agrees that the money allotted to research (0.4% of GDP) is low. "The Government is supposed to spend at least 1% of its GDP on research." 

According to Kaleebu, while the Government provides institutions where they operate from, Africa must consider investing directly in research to ward off the HIV scourge. 

Addressing a forum of HIV researchers in Yaounde, Cameroom in 2005, Kaleebu called on African countries to invest in HIV vaccine research. "Capacity building and technology transfer are key issues for HIV vaccine research in Africa. Through research, Africa could become part of the solution to the AIDS crisis. But we need to start funding and owning it." 

AAVP should champion the mobilisation of the Government to start contributing to vaccine research. Advocacy groups need to mobilise policy makers to make it a priority. Ecuru says there is no clear national policy on research financing in Uganda. "Under Section 20(3) of the UNCST Act 1990, the Government established a National Science and Technology Fund to promote research, but the fund has never been operationalised." 

Where is the HIV vaccine? 
Dr Hannah Kibuuka at MUWRP, says one must be:

  • Aged 18 ¡V 50, of sound mind and able to make independent decisions.
  • Not be pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Volunteering for the first time.
  • A Ugandan willing to give consent.
  •  Willing to test for HIV repeatedly and get results.
  •  Willing to use effective family planning methods, if sexually active.
  • Available during study period and willing to comply with protocol.
  • All body organs functioning well. 
    Those meeting the conditions can register either at IAVI, MUWRP, or MUJHU or at any sensitisation seminars about the volunteering. 

Dr Kaleebu says scientists are putting a lot of effort in two new vaccine candidates, which have been identified as the most viable against HIV after two decades of research. These are Adeno5, manufactured by a company called Merck and DNA plus Adeno5 by the Vaccine Research Centre, in the US. 
Both vaccines are currently undergoing the phase two trials worldwide. 
Kaleebu, said the two vaccine candidates successfully stimulate the body to produce the substances that may be able to protect the body from infection (antibodies and T-cells). 
IAVI is dealing with Adeno5 and is undergoing the second phase involving 27 Ugandans, 10 of whom are female. 
Makerere University John Hopkins University Project and Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP) are also conducting a phase2 trial for both vaccine candidates. 
IAVI, together with the Medical Research Council, are funding a study for the DNA plus Adeno5 vaccine. The trial, set to start at UVRI in Entebbe next month requires 300 volunteers. Of these, Uganda will provide 35 high risk individuals, who have been identified. 
There is a third vaccine candidate called Alvac, which has reached phase three trials. It is being tested in Thailand on 15,000 volunteers. 
Kaleebu says there is a long way to go for the final vaccine, but there is hope that in the next five to seven years, we could at least have a vaccine that controls the virus, where if one got infected with it, they would not get AIDS and the viral load wouldn't shoot up to affect the functioning of the body. 
2006-2007: A002 (tgAAC09) AAV vectored Vaccine at Uganda Virus Research Institute 

2006-2007: Adenovirus vectored HIV vaccine at MUWRP 

2005: Trial vaccine for children born to HIV-positive mothers at Makerere University John Hopkins University Project


Epidemics-Virus research institute could close over incapacity

The New Vision, October 18, 2009  

By Gladys Kalibbala

WITH the increasing number of pandemic outbreaks in the country, Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), Entebbe lacks modern laboratories to arrest the situation. The acting director of UVRI, Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu, says the poor state of affairs may force the World Health Organisation (WHO) to close the centre unless it meets international standards. 
The in-charge of influenza surveillance project at UVRI, Julius Lutwama, says the National Influenza Centre which was renovated recently at a cost of $700,000 (about sh1.4b) still requires the same amount of money to reach the required standards. 
Surveillance for influenza viruses was started at UVRI in the 1960’s by WHO. By then, there was little information about the disease in East Africa. After research by WHO, it was established that influenza A and B viruses were present in East Africa and UVRI was designated as the National Influenza Centre in the early 1980s. 
The activities of the centre reduced to nil until the highly pathogenic avian influenza surfaced recently. 
The bio-safety laboratory-2 which is a joint venture of Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP) and UVRI cannot handle all cases especially when there is more than one epidemic at ago. 
Kaleebu says once an outbreak occurs, the centre needs three to four days to disinfect the place, clean it and prepare chemicals for the new venture. 
“We cannot work on two different deadly viruses in the same laboratory for fear of creating a more deadly virus just in case the two viruses are mixed up by mistake," he says. 

Officials at UVRI add that although the institute tests and confirms all diseases in the country, it is not given attention by the health ministry.
"Even the sh1b promised by President Museveni on his visit to UVRI has not been seen,” says one of the officials. 
Kaleebu further explains that once the necessary laboratories are put in place, they will benefit all aspects of research in diagnosis of new emerging diseases like swine influenza, Ebola, Marburg and rift valley fever, among others, and not be limited to avian influenza. 
Prof. Fred Wabwire, the principal investigator at MUWRP, says epidemics have been taking the country by surprise because of the weak diagnostics, surveillance and monitoring systems. 
“The laboratory was renovated to maintain an effective programme of diagnostics and surveillance of vector borne viral infections, to collect data and information on arboviral diseases, ensures prompt recognition and confirmation of disease outbreaks which would enable action to be taken before the disease has affected many people," Wabwire said. 
Reports indicate that due to insufficient security, many health workers have in the past been exposed to infectious diseases, with some resulting into death. 
Training of staff and lack of vehicles were noted as issues which should be fixed urgently. 
"Imagine someone carrying an Ebola sample in a kaveera and using a taxi. What if they get an accident and the virus is let free or someone steals the kaveera?"asks Lutwama. 
Because the centre cannot handle samples in a safe manner, it suggests samples of various epidemics be handled at the UVRI gate instead of carrying them to the offices where many people's life is exposed to danger. 
Recently, a team of 15 MPs from the Social Services Committee visited UVRI to understand why the place required funding, but they discovered it was below international standards and required money urgently. 
The MPs visit was prompted by a communication from the Ministry of Health that a loan approved by WHO in 2008 to modernise the laboratories at the institute was about to be cancelled because Parliament had failed to approve it. 
UVRI officials say documents for the approval of the loan were submitted to the office of the Prime Minister in December 2008. 
Parliamentarians pointed out a ‘missing information gaps between the Prime Minister's office and Parliament which needed to be checked. 
The MP for Buliisa, Stephen Biraahwa, says: “The ministry should prioritise UVRI matters because the country is facing different epidemics. 
The legislators also learnt that the medical team which has been screening people for swine flu at Entebbe Airport and Entebbe Hospital abandoned its work over lack of pay. 
The 70-member-group stopped working a month ago. "We risked our lives during that risky period, but now that the threat of the disease has decreased, the Government seems not to care about us anymore. Now people just enter the country without any screening, “says one of them. 
Dr Jackson Amone, the assistant commissioner integrated curative at the Ministry of Health, says the team will be paid once the money is ready. 
Meanwhile the director of health services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Kenya Mugisha adds that the Ministry of Health plans to contact WHO and the National Influenza Task Force to reconsider the screening exercise. 
“We should look at a review of the best scenario of handling the screening exercise since swine flu has now spread in many countries,” he suggests . "All border entries need screening teams and it may be expensive for the Ministry. 
Some cases of swine flu were reported at Kitabi Seminary in Bushenyi and other isolated areas but they were treated. The health ministry says there is no need for pani



Uganda is now proud owner of Influenza Centre

The Observer, September 23, 2009 

By Shifa Mwesigye 

Uganda has opened up its own laboratory with the capacity and facilities to test and detect influenza viruses, instead of sending samples abroad for testing as has been the case.  The National Influenza Centre Laboratory, which was commissioned by the Minister of State for Primary Healthcare, James Kakooza, at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe, will enhance surveillance of influenza and influenza-like viruses in humans, animals and birds in Uganda. 

The H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, and H5N1 avian influenza virus, which is termed bird flu, have been a major threat to Uganda and the world, killing over 100 people. 
The laboratory will provide the equipment and training necessary to enable researchers analyse influenza samples. 
“When you look at the disease burden today, it is important to consider research on emerging disease burdens. We need mechanisms of supporting scientists to continue research because new viruses keep emerging that are a threat to the human population,” Kakooza says. 
The upgrade of the laboratory was supported by the U.S Department of Defence’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organisation, and the US Agency for International Development. 

Because viruses spread so fast globally, Uganda could not afford to wait for weeks or even months while samples are being verified. Swine flu, which broke out in Mexico in April 2009, made its way to Uganda within only two months. 
It was at this laboratory that nine cases in Uganda were confirmed. Other threats have been bird flu, Marburg, Ebola and Polio. 
“Now we don’t have to send samples to the US, they can be tested in Uganda as well as continuous surveillance for any new viruses around the country,” Kakooza said. 

According to Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu, acting Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute, surveillance for influenza viruses started at UVRI in the 1960s by the World Health Organisation team, but at the time there was scratchy information about the influenza in Uganda. 
UVRI was then a designated National Influenza Centre. But in the 1980s and 90s, the activities of the National Influenza Centre were reduced almost to nil, until a decision was reached to reopen because of the re-emerging cases of influenza viruses. The NIC has so far tested 2,700 influenza samples with a positive rate of about 15% for either H1N1 virus, or the H5N1 virus. 

It has also been involved in the investigations and control of Ebola and Marburg outbreaks in the country. 
“It became necessary to have more space for all of these activities and today we witness the handing over and official opening of the renovated laboratories,” Kaleebu said



Swine flu hits four in Kampala 

The New Vision, September 19, 2009

 By Raymond Baguma 


FOUR members of a family in Kampala have been taken ill with swine flu. This brings the total in Uganda to 12, since the first swine flu case was reported in July. 
Dr. Sam Zaramba, the director general of health services yesterday said on phone that a man, who recently visited an Asian country, returned home last week exhibiting flu-like symptoms at Entebbe Airport. Subsequent tests at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe confirmed the presence of the swine flu virus and the man was confined in his home, Dr. Zaramba explained. 
However, three other family members have since been taken ill with the virus. Zaramba added that the family members were in stable condition and recovering. "They are confined in their home and we are treating them from there," he said without revealing the location or their identities. Swine flu is air-borne and presents itself with symptoms that include sudden on-set of fever, sore throat, cough and flu, which occur within seven days after contact with an infected person. 
Meanwhile, media reports from Kenya have indicated that 20 students from a Nairobi school have been quarantined after they were taken ill with the fever. Zaramba said the disease can be prevented by washing hands regularly with soap and of plenty of water and sneezing or coughing into a handkerchief or tissue. When asked how students in Ugandan schools are safe, Zaramba said, “The disease is with us here and we have to be careful and that is the message we want to get out to the entire public." 
The disease was first reported in Mexico in April before it spread to US and other countries. WHO declared the virus an epidemic and there are fears that it could mutate to become more lethal. 
Apart from Uganda, the disease has been confirmed in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Morocco, 
South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Mauritius and Algeria.


National Influenza Centre laboratory launched in Entebbe

The New Vision: September 13, 2009 

By Gladys Kalibbala & Halima Shaban

A modern National Influenza Centre and laboratory was launched with a call on Government to provide more funds in order to make it fully equipped. 
The Bio-safety laboratory-2 (BSL-2) located at the Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe (UVRI) is a joint venture of Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP) and UVRI. 
According to the acting director of UVRI, Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu, the laboratory will be a key component in the diagnostics and surveillance of vector borne viral infections. 
It will be used to collect data and information on arboviral diseases, ensuring prompt recognition and confirmation of disease outbreaks which would enable action to be taken before the disease spreads. 
Officiating at the opening ceremony, the state minister for primary health care, James Kakooza, promised the Government's commitment in promoting and supporting research. 
He said the Government would set Uganda National Health Research Organisation (UNHRO) to fully coordinate and harmonise research in the country


Influenza laboratory needs more funds

The New Vision, September 05, 2009 

By Gladys Kalibbala and Halima Shaban

Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) Entebbe now has a modern laboratory that can screen for influenza viruses, Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu, the Acting Director has said. 
However the laboratory still requires about $700,000 to enable it reach the required standards according to the in-charge of Influenza Surveillance Project at UVRI, Dr. Julius Lutwama. 
“We can do some diagnosis but we cannot fully characterize all viruses and sub-type them as we lack all the necessary equipment," he said. 
Kaleebu said the laboratory will be a key component in the surveillance of influenza and influenza-like viruses in humans, animals and migratory birds in Uganda. 
“It has so far been able to confirm the 9 cases of Swine Flu which occurred in the country." 
The up-grading of the laboratory started in 2006 after Bird Flu hit parts of the.





HIV-resistant Ugandans found

The New Vision: April 05, 2009  

BY Charles Wendo


A SMALL fraction of Ugandans have been able to naturally knock off HIV from their body, a development that could lead to an HIV vaccine, scientists have said. 
Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu, an immunologist heading the Basic Sciences Programme of the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), told Saturday Vision that an ongoing study and a previous one at the institute had unearthed signs that some Ugandans may be resistant to HIV. 
They have special white blood cells that can only be produced when the virus attacks the body. However, even with the most sophisticated tests, HIV could not be found in these individuals, implying that the virus had tried to infect them but the immune system kicked it out. 
“We are seeing some immune responses but it is still too early to see if there is a lot of meaning to these responses,” said Kaleebu. 
"Such people are of interest to many researchers worldwide." 
At the AIDS Information Centre in Kampala, the UVRI scientists are studying 70 discordant couples to see if some of them are indeed resistant to HIV. These are couples that have had unprotected sex for more than a year, one partner has had HIV for long while the other has not become infected. “We have set up a clinic in Kampala where doctors and counsellors do a lot of counselling and give them condoms to reduce risky sexual behaviour," Kaleebu said. 
Despite early signs of resistance to HIV, Kaleebu said meaningful results can only be released at the end of the study. The five-year research, expected to be completed in 2010, is sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health through the British Medical Research Council (MRC). It is part of a multi-country study coordinated by the US-based Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) and involving Oxford University of UK. 
Prof. Heiner Grosskurth, the Director of the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, said: "lack of ability to becoming HIV infected is extremely rare, but there is evidence meanwhile that people who have this characteristic exist worldwide, although in very small numbers."
Although they are so few, he said, studying them could generate new knowledge that would enable scientists to develop a vaccine. “Such work is going on with a lot of speed and effort in many countries, but there is no breakthrough yet! I think it will still take years until we have good vaccine candidates." 
Earlier in 2002, Prof. Andrew Mc Michael of the University of Oxford and the late Dr. Anthony Kebba of UVRI announced that they had identified some eight Ugandans in Kampala and Entebbe, who were exposed to HIV but remained uninfected. One fifth of the discordant couples they studied showed some signs of resistance to HIV, but this required further confirmation. Mc Michael is involved with Kaleebu in the new study. Similar studies are going on in Kenya and the Gambia. 
Kaleebu cautioned that nearly all people are vulnerable to HIV and Ugandans should not relax simply because a few individuals seem to be resistant to the virus. “It has to be clear that this apparent resistance is not a common thing. If you are HIV negative and your partner is HIV positive we cannot say you are resistant and you cannot become infected. If you continue to have unprotected sex you might become infected in the long run," said Kaleebu. 
Indeed, in the late 1990s some people in Rakai were reported to have become infected with HIV after being discordant for many years. On discovering that they were discordant, scientists had advised them to begin using condoms. Later, some of those who declined to use condoms became infected.





Virus institute to hold science fair for schools 

The New Vision, March 03, 2009 

By Hilary Bainemigisha 

Tomorrow, students will convene at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe for a science fair, intended to familiarise them to science and research. 
The gala, the first of its kind, is organised by UVRI in corroboration with Makerere University to promote capacity building in scientific research in Uganda. The Open Day will run under the theme You Can Be a Scientist Too. 
Dr. Edward Mbidde, the director of UVRI, says the initiative offers secondary school students (S3 and above) and undergraduates a chance to interact with scientists as well as research and motivational speakers. 
Students will find out what scientists do, what a career in science is like and what they need to do if they wish to follow a career in science. 
A total of 43 schools have been invited mainly from Wakiso, Kampala, Mukono and Mpigi. The fair will be extended countrywide in corroboration with Makerere and UVRI's upcountry field stations. Tomorrow, scientists from both institutions will display their work in a trade fair format with booths and works from a wide variety of disciplines, including information on basic science; medicine, veterinary medicine, social science, statistics and modelling. 
The institute's training committee and the School of Graduate Studies will also provide career guidance and information through presentations. Students will access selected laboratories and departments of the institute. 
“The displays will be interactive so that students can try out things for themselves. Participants will also have the opportunity to meet practicing scientists and ask them about their careers,” says Mbidde. 
The UVRI is endowed with excellent laboratory facilities, which are not readily available in many universities. Young researchers can have a chance to use the modern research equipment at the UVRI. 
The event is sponsored by Wellcome Trust, which is providing the core funding. Other partners are Medical Research Council, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and Centre for Disease Control. The event will be held every two years, alternating between the UVRI and Makerere campuses. 



Virus research body to promote sciences 

The New Vision, February 28, 200 

By Elvis Basudde & Gladys Kalibbala

UGANDA Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and Makerere University are planning a fair to promote science in schools. The event, which will take place on Thursday, will run under the theme; "You can be a scientist too." 
According to Dr. Edward Katongole Mbidde, the UVRI chief, the Open Day is a new initiative to for students in S3 and above and undergraduates to learn about opportunities and careers in science and scientific research. 
Students will be able to find out what scientists do and what they need to do if they wish to follow a career in science. 
The event will include schools from Entebbe, Wakiso, Kampala, Mukono and Mpigi districts. 
At the open day, scientists from both institutions will display their work in trade fair format with booths. There will also be career guidance for students. 

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