The Makerere University – UVRI Research Training Programme on Infection and Immunity was launched in 2008 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions, and a joint symposium in Infection and Immunity.
Since its inception, the Makerere – UVRI partnership has flflourished, fostered by shared supervision of postgraduate students and post-doctoral scientists, shared teaching, joint symposia and workshops, mutual participation in seminars, collaborative research and capacity building activities, a mutual effort to foster the development of capacity for immunology research, and a vibrant immunology research hub, networked between Makerere University and UVRI, and now expanding to include other local stakeholders.
To attract young people to science, Makerere and UVRI worked together to hold an Open Day at which approximately 70 research groups presented their work to over 2000 secondary school students and undergraduates. To promote exposure to research for undergraduates, MUII has developed UVRI's internship programme: now, about 300 applications are received annually from school-leavers and undergraduates, and 80 to 100 three month placements are provided per year, for interns from Makerere and other Ugandan Institutions, and from overseas. Selection procedures for placements and for intern scholarships have been developed, as well as an induction day and annual competition, and a joint meeting has been held between UVRI and "home institution" supervisors.
A MUII fellowship programme has been established, with procedures developed for Uganda, for selection of fellows from East Africa, and for monitoring progress. Six Masters, five PhD and five post-doctoral fellows have been supported so far. PhD and post-doctoral fellows have undertaken sandwich attachments overseas, and these have resulted in collaborations that have the potential for long-term benefit for the individuals and institutions involved.
To address the regional gap in postgraduate teaching on Immunology, a short course, "Immunology in the Tropics" has been developed. This two-part course is now running for the fourth time and has trained 112 young scientists from Uganda and 93 from across the continent and the world, providing exposure to world-class faculty through lectures, hot-topics seminars, journal clubs and practicals. Over thirty local and international faculty have given their time, free, to teach on the course. The experience has had a far-reaching impact upon participants' careers. In addition MUII has contributed support to courses on statistics and epidemiology, cross-cutting research skills, and research degree supervision and mentorship.
MUII has identified and addressed several physical and human infrastructural needs for training in infection and immunity research, and efforts to address these are in progress. An immunology laboratory has been established at Makerere and an e-library facility has been established at UVRI, video conferencing systems are being installed at UVRI and Makerere and a training resource building is under construction at UVRI. A deputy programme coordinator and administrator are in place to support the programme.
MUII has had several outcomes beyond its specific objectives. MUII has contributed tools and processes towards best-practice in selection and monitoring of trainees in the region. The immunology laboratory and research interest group at Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MUCHS) has triggered the initiation of a Masters degree in Microbiology and Immunology and plans for a MUCHS Department of Immunology, within which a full PhD Programme in Immunology has been proposed. MUII has also contributed to the development of collaborations between UVRI, Makerere University and the University of Cambridge, UK, providing a means for Cambridge researchers to collaborate with their African colleagues. As a result, Cambridge now has a growing portfolio of research capacity building programmes with African institutions, across a range of subject areas, supported by different funders.