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Uganda Virus Research Institute


Director's Message

I welcome you to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) website. UVRI is a Government Institution under the Ministry of Health and the Uganda National Health Research Organization (UNHRO).

UVRI has a wealth of history. Established in 1936 by the International Division of the Rockefeller Foundation as a Yellow Fever Research Institute, the institute contributed to the understanding of the transmission cycles of yellow fever.  As yellow fever work continued, a number of other viruses including the Chikungunya, Onyongnyong, Zika, Semlik forest, West Nile, Bunyamwera, Bwamba, and Sindbis were isolated at the Institute, in total about 124 strains and 24 new viruses were isolated in the years between 1936 and 1972. In 1942 UVRI became a yellow fever vaccine distribution center for the whole of Africa east of Nigeria and for the Middle East.

In 1950 the Institute became the East African Virus Research Institute under the East African High   Commission.  The same year it was designated   as   WHO   Regional   Centre   for   Arboviruses Reference and Research.  In 1962 the Imperial      Cancer      Research      Fund      collaborated      with      the      Institute      in      studying      Burkitt’s lymphoma and in 1965 isolation from ticks started yielding two new strains from cattle ticks. In 1969, WHO established a programme for polio and other viruses including acute respiratory diseases and enteroviruses. In 1977 the East African Community collapsed and the Institute was subsequently named the Uganda Virus Research Institute. After the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Uganda, reference role activities and research work with collaborators on HIV started in 1987. UVRI was identified to be the reference laboratory for HIV diagnostics and to participate in HIV surveillance, working with the AIDS Control Programme. 

The Institute started collaborating in 1988 with Makerere University, Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University among others to form the Rakai Project (now the Rakai Health Sciences Program); later in the same year, with the Medical Research Council UK to form the MRC-UVRI Uganda Research Programme on AIDS. This was followed by collaborations with the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1997 and with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) in 2001 to create the UVRI- IAVI HIV Vaccine Program. In HIV the Institute has contributed in the areas if understanding the risk factors for transmission, understanding natural history of disease, intervention such as microbicides, vaccines, PreP, treatment options, genetic diversity, drug resistance and protective immune responses among others.

More recently, with the emergency and re-emergency of viruses, UVRI has received support from various partners and funders especially USA Government agencies to support work in this area. Already in the past three years three new viruses have been discovered.

The institute currently hosts the following reference activities; A national and regional reference center for vector borne viral diseases; The national influenza Ccnter, a WHO influenza collaborating laboratory; 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.

UVRI is actively involved in capacity building, this includes mentorships, student attachments and supporting research students. Our staff also participate in teaching at various Universities.

We ensure that the work we do, in addition to generating new knowledge, does contribute to policy and practice. We work very closely with the ministry of health and other relevant ministries.

This website will provide you a brief of the various activities undertaken and other information together with links to our key partners and to our publications.

Let me thank the Uganda Government, all our partners, funders, research participants and other stakeholders.

Professor Pontiano Kaleebu