Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Purdue University, United States, have launched a collaboration in the field of Biomedical Engineering following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in August 2023.
The collaboration is spearheaded by Dr. Eddy Odari, Senior Lecturer, Medical Microbiology Department (MMB), College of Health Sciences (JKUAT) and Prof.Tamara Kinzer-Ursem, Associate Dean, College of Engineering at Purdue.
According to Dr. Odari who also spent some time at Pardue as a visiting scientist, both institutions will benefit since Purdue is seeking to carry out preclinical and clinical trials in developing countries and COHES is better placed owing its being home to a diverse range of expertise drawn from various disciplines.
Under the partnership, two (2) students from the Schools of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, have already been awarded opportunities for medical elective and master program in biomedical engineering at Purdue University.
The collaboration with Pardue comes on the heels of a key development as JKUAT gears up to introduce an undergraduate degree program in biomedical engineering under the College of Engineering and Technology (COETEC).
Discussions centred on the curriculum development of the new program in 2022 included COHES, which is now exploring the possibility of jointly offering a postgraduate course in the field with Purdue University.
On their visit to JKUAT in November 6, 2023 to explore more areas and opportunities for implementation under the MoU, the Purdue team had a chance to meet and discuss with the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Prof. Robert Kinyua, who emphasized JKUAT’s commitment to support researchers seeking collaborations globally, and highlighted ongoing partnerships with institutions in Asia, Europe and America.
“JKUAT plays an important role in enhancing human capacity to address challenges faced in Africa so we look forward to the fruitful, synergetic collaboration we have embarked on with Purdue,” stated Prof. Kinyua.
Discussions between the Purdue team that included Prof. Natasha Duncan and JKUAT faculty from COETEC and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, were privileged to hear updates on the innovative work of Prof. Linnes and Prof. Robinson on portable diagnostic tools.
Feasible areas of collaboration were considered particluarly on the development of hand-held and miniature devices for various applications.
On behalf of COHES Principal, Prof. Johnson Kinyua shared a number of opportunities for collaboration across the schools in the College including School of Nursing which he noted, could develop affordable point-of-care diagnostics.
“different schools at COHES can benefit from Biomedical Engineering. For instance, Pharmacy has the potential to leverage biomedical expertise for local pharmaceutical product development and the creation of the hand-held gadgets can help in rapid assessment of plant compounds, therefore catalyzing research,” explained Prof. Kinyua.
He also noted that JKUAT could benefit from Purdue’s experience in patents and the commercialization of products, especially through innovation incubation hubs.
Eng. Charles Kabubo, representing Principal COETEC, noted that such devices could be useful in assessing the quality of concrete to ensure the structural integrity of buildings, the lack of which has been identified as a cause of dangerous structural failures in the country, while Dr. Kagira, Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Animal Science, pitched for simple, handheld diagnostic devices for disease diagnosis in rural areas, particularly in animal husbandry.
These devices, he said, can help determine the necessity of medication and even evaluate the quality of animal products, such as eggs, milk and meat destined for human consumption.
The Chairman, Rehabilitative Sciences Department, Dr. Matheri Mwangi, outlined JKUAT’s plans to create an Institute of Non-communicable Diseases in his presentation on projects the university is pursuing. He stated that the initiative aims to involve rehabilitative and engineering students to provide solutions for disabilities through biomedical engineering and therefore appealed to Pardue for support towards its actualization.
In response, Dr. Kinzer-Ursem, a Bio-Medical Engineer from Purdue University, already impressed by the collaboration between COHES and COETEC, pledged her support in shaping the curriculum for the new programs.
She also conveyed Purdue’s willingness to support the collaboration, offering experienced faculty in innovation and engineering design to meet consumer demands and drive meaningful advancements in the field of biomedical engineering.
The JKUAT and Purdue partnership promises to advance healthcare, technolog and education in Kenya and beyond.