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Uganda Virus Research Institute



Department of Immunology

The UVRI department of Immunology constitutes the country most comprehensive basic science Immunology laboratories. Through understanding how the immune system responds to viral diseases, the department informs and contributes to vaccine and immunotherapeutics discovery, vaccine evaluation, improved vaccination strategies, control and prevention and reversal of severity of infectious viral diseases.

The department focuses on ;

  • research on virus-host interactions in order to understand correlates of protection from diseases of viral etiology. Our studies aim at defining the function of the immune system in response to viral infections in order to understand the ability of the body to fight infectious viral diseases. The department undertakes basic science research of all aspects of immunology including cellular, humoral and molecular immunology as critical to fulfilling its this goal, as well as translational research to link our findings to the development of new vaccine and immunotherapies.
  • Capacity of the immunology department includes virus isolation and culture; sterile tissue culture techniques, isolation and characterization of monoclonal antibodies, expression and purification of viral proteins, preparation of psuedotyped viruses. In addition, the department can assess virus-induced cellular immune responses by ELISpot, flowcytomery, viral inhibition and Luminex assays; using ELISA to assess binding antibody responses to viral infections and use of live and psuedotyped to quantify ant-viral neutralizing antibody responses.


General Goal:

To define mechanisms and pathways of the immune system to improve human health by preventing disease, enhancing vaccination, and controlling autoimmunity. The department also contributes to training and mentoring local, regional and international students students, post doctoral fellows, and other young scientists to be proficient in immunology.


Specific Objectives of the Department/unit

  • Characterization of pathogen-induced immune responses and host factors for purposes of understanding pathogenesis and informing vaccine discovery
  • Evaluation of potential vaccines by conducting phase I, II and III Efficacy clinical trials
  • Immunological studies on co-infections and their effects on vaccine response
  • Supporting capacity building for Immunology on national and international level, and promotion of good practice
  • Ensuring more effective coordination and integration of UVRI and collaborative partnerships
  • Contribute to building of institutional infrastructure to support the operations of UVRI and fulfillment of its mandate


Activities include: 

  • Assessing the global immune response to SARS-COV-2 in COVID-19 acute, recovered and vaccinated Ugandans. This longitudinal study prospectively assesses the clinical, immunological, viral and host characteristics associated with COVID-19 disease outcome in Uganda. These studies will describe the frequencies and phenotypes of SARS-CoV2 induced immune responses in qrt-PCR COVID-19 confirmed Ugandan cases; evolution and durability of the induced immune responses, susceptibility of circulating virus variants to circulating antibodies, factors associated with COVID-19 disease outcome, and isolate and clone SARS-CoV-2 spike specific human monoclonal antibodies with potent virus neutralizing capabilities
  • Preparation of an inactivated covid-19 vaccine at UVRI for pre-clinical evaluations at COVAB and an outsourced primate centre. This protocol will generate an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine candidate representative of the local and global SARS-CoV-2 virus isolates and evaluate its safety, immunogenicity and protective efficacy in animal models. Animal models will be immunized and challenged with specified doses of representative COVID-19 strains to evaluate for safety, protection from disease/death, and elicitation of vaccine induced-cellular and humoral immune responses. Safety and vaccine induced cellular and neutralizing antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 will the desired primary outcome. Safety will be assessed by assessing for extent of inflammatory responses, host tissue pathology, and absence of death in the challenged animals compared to the controls.
  • HIV virus surveillance studies to determine whether there Is a difference in the neutralization sensitivity phenotype between historic and contemporary HIV envelopes in order to inform relevant HIV vaccine design.
  • A clinical trial to assess safety and immunogenicity of an innovative LNP-nCOV saRNA-02, a self-amplifying ribonucleic acid (saRNA) COVID-19 vaccine encoding the S glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, in SARS-CoV-2 seronegative and seropositive Uganda population
  • A Phase IIb three-arm, two-stage HIV prophylactic vaccine trial with a second randomization to compare TAF/FTC to TDF/FTC as pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEPVacc is an international, multi-centre, double-blind vaccine study. It will be a three-arm prospective 1:1:1 randomization comparing each of two experimental combination vaccine regimens with placebo control. Study coordination across sites is coordinated led locally by our site. The department will be responsible for conducting the binding antibody ELISA end-point assay for all trial sites
  • A phase I study randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled dose escalated phase I clinical trial to determine the safety and immunogenicity of the candidate Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV) vaccine ChAdOx1 RVF among healthy adult volunteers in Uganda.
  • An open-label, single arm study to provide additional information on immunogenicity and safety of a candidate Ebola Vaccine Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN®-Filo. The primary objective is to assesses the humoral immune responses as measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to the Ebola glycoprotein after intramuscular administration of Ad26.ZEBOV/ MVA-BN®-Filo vaccine in all participants on Day 0 and Day 77, The secondary objective is to assess the persistence of humoral immune responses as measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) at day 365. Exploratory objectives include i) determining the induced plasma chemokines using Luminex at Day 0, 1 and 3 following vaccinations with Ad26.ZEBOV in a subset of participants; ii) determining induced plasma chemokines using Luminex at Day 56, 57 and 59 in a subset of participants, and iii) To explore T cell mediated responses to the Ad26.ZEBOV/ MVA-BN®-Filo vaccine at baseline and day 77 in a subset of participants.
  • Combined HIV Adolescent PrEP and Prevention (CHAPS) to evaluate on-demand Truvada and F/TAF Pre-exposure prophylaxis to provide protection from HIV for men. The purpose of this trial is to investigate the role of Truvada and FTAF in HIV prevention for PEP and PrEP by assessing the effectiveness of PrEP and PEP to prevent HIV infection ex vivo.

 Major Funders

  • Govt of Uganda
  • International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Africa CDC
  • Wellcome Trust