The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) aligned with Imperial College of London to launch the country’s first COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial by December 2020.
With the final internal processes and procedures underway, Professor Pontiano Kaleebu reports the team is authoring the protocol directing the trial associated with the vaccine under development by Imperial College London of the United Kingdom. The first phase trial will center on safety and immunogenicity.
With over 42 million people, Uganda has a good-sized population, but the cases of COVID-19 have not spread very far or wide. There are various hypotheses for this, which TrialSite won’t delve into here. According to public records, the entire nation has 2,263 cases and 20 deaths.
However, the fear is that the virus could spread, and the nation’s health authorities don’t want to take any chances.
Legacy of mistrust
In a recent article in the Daily Monitor, the local news reminded all about some of the ethical violations involving clinical trials in past years. Africans have resented any effort to unethically test subjects with foreign vaccines.
However, Professor Kaleebu suggests Ugandans are upbeat about the vaccine coming out of the UK. A well designed, well planned, and a well-governed clinical trial will be in the best interests of all in Uganda.
Uganda Research Sites
TrialSite introduced Uganda last year. We emphasized it’s a place to not only visit, but also watch out for as it and neighbours in central and eastern Africa emerge into the world’s trading ecosystem.
With some of the warmest and friendliest people on the planet, incredible wildlife and beautiful mountains (not to mention large spectacular lakes), and one of the last spots in the world where mountain gorillas live, the powerful source of the Nile represents a core landlocked pumping heart of Africa.
Uganda has a troubled past with serious current social-economic challenges, but portends a lively, thriving, and free-spirited future. Known from a Kingdom called Buganda, it was once part of an entire empire known as Kitara. Much later it was part of a colonial conquest and partition. Not until 1962 did the nation secure independence from the British Empire.
Last year, TrialSite reported that a total of 415 clinical trials were registered in the country with 148 active trials across therapeutic areas.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has impacted the ecosystem. Last year only about 24 clinical trials were industry-sponsored compared to 60 trials that originate from non-government agencies, universities, and foundations. A total of 45 studies had some US government involvement—pre-COVID-19.
Clinical Research Centers
Universities and Institutes contribute tremendously to Uganda’s research growth. TrialSite News provides an example of some academic medical centers and research institutes operating in the country.
Major research centers exist, such as the Uganda Cancer Institute.
A public, specialized, tertiary care medical facility owned by the Uganda ministry of Health. The main facility is located in the Kawempe Division of Kampala. It is a cancer treatment, research, and teaching center affiliated with Makerere University School of Medicine, and with the Mulago national referral hospital, the teaching hospital for the medical school.
UCI maintains an in-patient facility with a capacity of 80 beds. It sees, on average, 200 patients per day. In 2011, UCI started development for the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance, a collaboration between Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA; the facility opened up for patients in 2015. University of Makerere and affiliates such as its Institute for Infectious Diseases (ISI).
A prestigious Ugandan institution, Pfizer contributed $11 million during its inception over a decade ago. The IDI is an advanced, forward-thinking academic enterprise with several programs including: