State pumps money into Covid research

Kenyatta University student project leader Fidel Makatia conducts a demonstration during the launch of a prototype ventilator in April last year. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Only one private university and six public institutions of higher learning have had their Covid-19 research proposals approved by the Government for funding.

The National Research Fund (NRF) approved research proposals from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), University of Nairobi (UoN), Egerton University, Pwani University, Multimedia University and Kenyatta University (KU).

Among the private universities, only Mount Kenya University (MKU) had its proposal approved. The Institute of Primate Research and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) also had their proposals approved.

Egerton, JKUAT, KU and the Institute of Primate Research each had two proposals approved. UoN, Multimedia, Pwani, Kemri and MKU each had one research proposal and concept approved.

In total, under Covid-19 research alone, only 13 proposals were approved out of 350 requests.

The NRF said the calls for proposals and concept notes made in April last year were also in response to crises brought about by cancer incidents and the invasion of desert locusts.

By the closing date for entries, a total of 134 responses were submitted towards cancer research and another 83 to address the challenge of desert locusts.

“These calls focused on identified priorities and was responded to by government institutions, institutions of higher learning (private and public) and private non-profit and profit organisations,” the NRF said.

But only 22 research proposals were approved for government funding on cancer and another 16 for desert locusts invasion.

“The proposals and concept notes were subjected to a rigorous peer review process and further evaluated by subject experts,” said NRF.

Overall, under the cancer research category, 10 public universities and one private university–Strathmore–qualified for funding.

These are Chuka University, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST), Kisii University, Multimedia, UoN, Maseno University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Moi University, Meru University and KU.

Research proposals from Kakamega County health departments and Machakos Level 5 Hospital were also approved.

Cancer research

Nairobi Hospital, Tenwek Hospital, the Institute of Primate Research, Kemri and the National Cancer Institute also had their proposals on cancer approved.

Nine public universities and one private university had their proposals approved for the desert locusts invasion.

They are Mt Kenya University (MKU), Chuka, KU, JOOUST, UoN, Moi, University of Eldoret, South Eastern Kenya University, and JKUAT.

Others are the National Meteorological Centre, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.

“We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the researchers who participated in the calls and congratulate the various teams that have been shortlisted. Further communication shall be made to those shortlisted,” the NRF said.

It is expected that Kenyans will take keen interest in specific fields of research under Covid-19 funded by the government.

At JKUAT, the research of Dr Karuguti Wallace will focus on “Outcomes and Feasibility of an Evidence-Based Rehabilitation Program for Controlling Morbidity, Enhancing Immunity and Physical Function for People with Severe Covid-19 in Kenya.”

His colleague, Muturi Njoka, will research on “Development and Validation of a Low Cost, Rapid, and Ultrasensitive Next Generation Biosensor to Detect Covid-19 Infection.”

Proposals approved

Dr Meshack Onyambu and Dr John Paul Oyore of KU also had their proposals approved.

Dr Onyambu’s research will focus on the evaluation of “Safety and Efficacy of Potential Herbal Formulations and Standardisation for Integration into Covid-19 Prevention and Management in Kenya.”

Dr Oyore will research on optimising “Parameters for the Proper Use of Face Masks to Reduce Severity of Underlying Infections for Enhanced Tolerance to Covid-19.”

Prof Isabel Wagara and Prof Micah Chepchieng, both from Egerton University, also had their research concepts approved.

Prof Wagara’s research will focus on development of “Herbal Covid-19 Antiviral Interventions from Local Medicinal Plants and their Endophytes in Kenya.”

Prof Chepchieng will look at “Enhancing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support to Address Effects of Covid-19 among Primary and Secondary School Learners in Kenya.”

Research by Dr Peter Kirira of MKU will focus on the “Development of Immune Regulatory Supplements from Indigenous Edible Herbs and Vegetables for Prevention and Management of Covid-19.”

Dr Joseph Mghalu of Pwani university will research on developing “Functional Food Products from Activated Edible Mushrooms to Mitigate SARS-Like Conditions.”

At UoN, Prof Julius Oyugi will research on development of a “Point of Care Covid-19 Test, Modeling of Case Management and Simulations of Covid-19 Interventions.”