Makerere launches Coronavirus immune therapy study

Makerere University through its Centre of Excellence for Lung Science, the Makerere University Lung Institute (MLI) in collaboration with Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) Medical Services, Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS), Mulago National Referral Hospital and Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) has initiated a project to assess the feasibility, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 Immune Therapies in Uganda. The project is code named Coronavirus (COVID-19) Immune Therapy (COVIDIT). A team of researchers is harvesting blood from individuals who recovered from COVID-19 and processing it further in preparation for use as treatment for COVID-19 in Uganda.

The first phase of this project is funded by the Government of the Republic of Uganda through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).

Tuesday 16 June, 2020 marked the kick-off of the plasma donation and processing Work Package in which individuals that have recovered from COVID-19 undergo the donation exercise, with subsequent processing of the collected samples.

The kick-off ceremony was held in the Lower Mulago National Referral Hospital Private Outpatients Compound.

The donation processes will be managed by UBTS following usual blood donation standards. UBTS will store the plasma and distribute it for use in the trial (Refer to WP2 below).

The kick-off of the donation exercise was witnessed by representatives from the partner institutions and key stakeholders such as Dr. Charles Olaro, Director Health Services who represented Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s Minister of Health. A plasma donation centre run by UBTS has been established in the newly renovated Mulago Hospital.

Ms. Laura Nagasha, who recovered from COVID-19 was the first donor and had this to say. ‘When I was called upon to join in this research, I never hesitated because if I can be the source of treatment for others, why not run to support the cause? I am here because I want us to quickly work together to find the treatment for Coronavirus.’

Ag. DVCFA and Chair Mak-RIF GMC-Prof. William Bazeyo (2nd Right) with Dr. Charles Olaro (3rd Right) and representatives from other partner institutions during the launch of the COVIDIT Study, 16th June 2020, Mulago National Referral Hospital, Kampala Uganda

‘We appeal to all those individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to come and donate blood so that together we can work towards kicking COVID-19 out of Uganda, the region and globe by offering treatment’ noted Prof. William Bazeyo, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) at Makerere University.

Prof. Bazeyo who is also the Chairperson of the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) thanked the researchers, partners and above all the Government of the Republic of Uganda for funding research and innovations at Makerere University through Mak-RIF. He also thanked the Media for continuously relaying all the necessary messages to the public.

The Director MLI and COVIDIT Principal Investigator, Dr. Bruce Kirenga noted that the Project was initiated in view of emerging evidence to support the use of convalescent plasma (CP) for the treatment of COVID-19 especially among severe and critical forms of disease with improved survival. The lack of other proven therapies for COVID-19 in Uganda and the availability of COVID-19 survivors in the country are some of the factors readily available to support these efforts. The project has 4 main Work Packages (WP);

WP1. Plasma Donation, Processing and Storage whose overall objective is to assess the feasibility of collecting, processing and storage of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for future investigative assessment of its efficacy in treating patients with COVID-19.

WP2. COVID Convalescent Plasma Therapy Trial whose overall objective is to assess the feasibility, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 CP in treatment of COVID-19 in Uganda.

WP3. Monoclonal Antibodies Manufacturing whose overall objective is to isolate potent monoclonal antibodies from peripheral B cells of Ugandan COVID-19 survivors for use in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

WP4. COVID-19 Survivor Registry whose overall objective is to establish a COVID-19 survivor registry to support the study of the long term impact of SARS-CoV2 virus infection on survivors.


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