KEMRI and JKUAT Researchers Challenged to Develop Covid-19 Vaccine

Prof. Kombe (left) and Prof. Ngumi append their signatures to the MoA  as Prof. Ndung’u (right) witnesses, while JKUAT Chief Legal Officer, Vivian Nyambura (standing) guides the process.

Researchers and innovators have been challenged to work collaboratively in order to come up with innovative solutions that will address urgent challenges affecting Kenyans.

Speaking at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), October 1, 2020, during the signing of Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and JKUAT, the Director General, KEMRI, Prof. Yeri Kombe, said, JKUAT and KEMRI  have built the necessary capacity over the years and the two institutions can leverage on this synergy to develop a vaccine that can be administered to address  Covid-19.

“KEMRI and JKUAT can partner and work in the laboratories at KEMRI and come up with a vaccine,” said Prof Kombe.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the best talent and potential that JKUAT as a training institution has in supporting the Ministry of Health in tackling the Coronavirus disease,” Prof Kombe stated.

The Chairman of the KEMRI Board of Management, Dr. Naftali Agata, said, “The partnership is about building  national capacity,” and expressed his desire to see the two entities actualize the partnership.

JKUAT Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Mathu Ndung’u, who is also the Head of the Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Geneva-based Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Executive Director of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) Kenya, an implementing partner of Kenya’s Ministry of Health on leishmaniasis control, said “KEMRI and JKUAT have specific areas of focus as well as overlaps, and the two institutions have a lot of potential that has not been explored.”

From Left: Dr. Agata, Prof. Kombe, Prof. Ngumi, Prof. Ndung’u and Prof. Abukutsa moments after signing the MoA.

Prof. Ndung’u stated that FIND has a Memorandum of Understanding with KEMRI since 2012, and urged KEMRI and JKUAT researchers to build on existing collaborative framework  and the opportunity availed by the MoU and MoA  to strengthen research.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi noted that JKUAT is  focused to be a Research University and the institution is currently engaged in supporting the Big 4 Agenda.

She stated that the University researchers and innovators have developed ventilators, and apps for contact tracing, among other innovations as part of the University’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our multi-disciplinary team of researchers has also developed a modelling platform for predicting and monitoring the national infection trends of Covid-19 in Kenya,” said Prof. Ngumi, adding it underscores the University’s response and impact on the Covid-19 challenge.

She further said, “The MoA will be important because it will impact the whole country.”

The Deputy Vice Chancellor in Charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa stated that partnerships and collaborations are very critical to any institution and the MoA signaled the continuation of JKUAT’s relationship with KEMRI under the existing MoU.

The Ag. Deputy Vice Chancellor in Charge of Academic Affairs, Prof. David Mburu observed that he had seen what started as programme grow into  one of the most active MoUs since the collaboration started.

Those who spoke at the function include; Prof. Bernard Ikua and the Deans, School of Medicine, and Public Health, Dr. Reuben Thuo and Prof. Simon Karanja, respectively.

The JKUAT and KEMRI teams pose for a commemorative photo after the ceremony.

Under the MoA, KEMRI and JKUAT will provide access to training and research facilities available at both institutions to students enrolled under the collaboration, train and mentor post-graduate students enrolled in the program, recruit candidates for enrollment into the post-graduate programmes, jointly supervise and examine student’s research projects.

They will also conduct collaborative research, publish jointly any research arising from work jointly supervised as well as review program curricula with the understanding that JKUAT will own the curricula as guided by the University Senate.

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