Gulu University wants US$ 710,000 to upgrade biosafety research laboratory for testing COVID-19

Prof. George Ladaah Openjuru, the Vice Chancellor of Gulu University, has penned down a request to the Ministry of Health, through Gulu District Local Government Task Force for COVID-19 pandemic, asking them to fund Gulu University’s State of the Art’ Research Laboratory facilities which has seven specialized laboratory rooms.

The Director of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital Dr. James Elima says they are behind Gulu University Biosafety Laboratory in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic because the government has already injected US$ 4.5 million for the Gulu University Biosafety Laboratory which caters for the entire north,

“I want to recommend the importance of the Biosafety Laboratory of Gulu University. We have to put our weight in Gulu University Laboratory because we have to provide this to protect our health workers. The COVID-19 test results show that there is high risk of affecting the medical personnel whom, we need is to stop protect from this risk. We need our managers to be out of danger.” Dr. Elima reasoned.

Dr. Filex Kaducu, the Dean of Gulu University Faculty of Medicine applauded the Ministry of Health on behalf of the University management. He appealed to the Minister of Health, Dr. Ruth Jane Aceng, that the Multi-Functional Laboratory in Gulu, which was built by a US$ 4.5 million can provide testing when is upgraded to level 3 (BSL3) and can serve the Greater North in the same capacity of Uganda Virus Research Institute if government injects further US$ one million.

“What we now request from you is, can you kindly follow up with the ministry? What we request from you is to say yes; together we can make it.” Dr. Kaducu re-echoed

Minister Jane Aceng however said the ministry cannot support Gulu University Multi-Functional laboratory immediately, but in near future they will support it.

“I want to belief that our laboratory officials came here to map the test all over the country. Right now is not possible because we have Rapid Diagnostic Test. We don’t have the test kits. If I would have them then I would have to give it.” The Minister Aceng reiterates.

However, when Dr. Kaducu approached her and she promised to send government technical laboratory officials to inspect the laboratory.

In his request letter, the Vice Chancellor says the laboratory room is designed to detect and the containment of infectious disease. He says the Biosafety Research laboratory facilities, which was funded by the Government of Uganda and African Development Bank and commissioned by President Yoweri Museveni on 11, January 2020.

His concept note give details of laboratory equipment and Human Resources currently available for the laboratory which can contribute to the fight against CPVID-19 outbreak by increasing national capacity toward COVID-19 dialognasis epidemiological surveillance and patient monitoring as well as the overall national epidemic control measure.

“In order to do this the current Biosafety level 2 (BSL2) Laboratory facilities need to be upgraded to Biosafety level 3 (BSL3) Propagative diagnostic Laboratory. This will require additional US$ 710, 000 (UGX 2.6 billion) as detailed in the attached concept”, says the concept note.

Prof, George Ladaah made the appeal during the meeting held on 31st March, 2020 during which the leaders overwhelmingly approved this initiative from the University and tasked the RDC, as leader of the District COVID-19 to submit this request to the national COVID-19 Task Force for consideration.

There is critical need for easy access to accurate, rapid and confirmatory test in detection of COVID-19 pandemic set up in limited resource settings like Uganda and in particular in the greater Northern and Eastern Uganda.

The Ministry of Health together with other development partners could ‘exploit and fully utilized the state of the art’ Research Laboratory facilities at Gulu University to help with COVID-19 diagnostic

Rapid screening and testing followed by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) confirmation test would be the best Public Health approach in COVID-19 surveillance.

Collecting samples of all suspected cases of COVID-19 are done from about 100 hubs across the country and are sent to UVRI for confirmation testing; however plans are under way to roll out mobile laboratory testing across East African Community Members States.

Uganda Virus Research Institute and Makerere University still remain the only referral Laboratory for Uganda COVID-19 testing. With Regional disparities in cases and quick turn-around time for result investigations, the now level 2 laboratory facilities, if the Gulu University Biosafety laboratory can be upgraded to the level 3, is worthwhile a national undertaking that the government of Uganda and Development partners should pursued now.

The facilities will not just serve as a hub for sample collection and transmission to URVI, but to importantly serve as regional hub for confirmatory testing of COVID-19 for the Greater Northern Uganda. Gulu University will contribute to building local regional and national capacity in diagnosis, research, innovation, and develop that facilities for rapid diagnosis, response, management control and elimination of COVID-19

The Gulu University has ‘the state of the art research laboratory facilities’ with eighteen (18) laboratories in one building located 1.5 kilometers to the City Center. There are seven (7) specialized laboratory rooms designed to detect and contain of infectious disease,.

The University has also Clinical Chemistry laboratory, Biochemistry laboratory, and Pharmacology Pharmaceutical Chemistry laboratory for patient monitory and relevant clinical and Biosciences research.


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