Friday, February 8, 2019 was another memorable day for the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) as it was privileged to host a team of four leading virologists and immunologists.
MUST is offering a Bachelor of Science in Immunology programme under the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) school where issues of immunology and virology are paramount.
As part of their visit to Malawi, Professors Renia and Lisa Ng from Singapore were at MUST to discuss research and other areas of collaboration.
Their visit was facilitated by Dr Kondwani Jambo and Dr Khuzwayo Jere from the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research (MLW) program.
According to host, Dr Gama Bandawe, who is head of the Biological Sciences Department in the AMS, the team had presentations and discussed research related issues.
“We later took the guests on a tour of the MUST laboratory facilities. These included the undergraduate (general Biology) laboratory, the two senior undergraduate laboratories (Medical Microbiology and Immunology) and finally the two research laboratories.
“The research facilities include a Microbiology and pathogens research laboratory and a biochemistry and immunology research laboratory. The guests were updated on the progress of unpacking the equipment received under the 2018 Instrumental Access Program under Seeding Labs and we also briefed them on some of the research projects we are starting soon,” said Dr Bandawe, adding that the Singaporean and Malawian scientists expressed excitement at the developments taking place at MUST and were looking forward to working in partnership with the university on projects from this year.
The interaction continued later that evening at a dinner in Blantyre, which was also attended by AMS Executive Dean, Professor Wilson Mandala, where discussions focused on areas of mutual interest.
Professor Mandala, just like Professor Renia, is also a specialist in Malaria immunology.
Professor Renia is the Executive Director of the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) and is a globally recognised expert in malaria immunology.
He has published more than 250 articles and book chapters in Infectious Diseases and Immunology. He is also an Academic Editor for Infection and Immunity, PLoS ONE, Infection and Immunity, Microbial Pathogenesis and Frontiers in Immunology.
On the other hand, Professor Ng is the Deputy Executive Director of Singapore’s Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR) Graduate Academy and a Senior Principal Investigator at the Singapore Immunology Network.
She is also Professor and Chair of Viral Immunology at the Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, UK. Her group’s research interests focus on the immune responses of arthrogenic arboviruses that are epidemic or highly endemic in the tropics, including Chikungunya virus, Dengue virus, Zika virus and other related alpha- and flavi-viruses.
Her team has published in top tier scientific journals and made several key important findings to move the human immunology field forward in controlling Chikungunya and Zika virus infections.
For her previous work and contributions to the field of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), she was voted the “Most Inspiring Woman” at the Great Women of Our Time awards for Science and Technology in 2005, and was conferred the Junior Chamber International (JCI) “Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World” Singapore 2013 Scientific and/or Technological Development Award.
In recognition of Professor Ng’s meritorious research and development efforts on Asia’s infectious diseases, she was conferred the highly prestigious ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) “International Young Scientist and Technologist Award” in 2008.
And in recognition of her mentoring work for graduate students and scientists, she received the A*STAR “Most Inspiring Mentor Award” in March 2013.
Dr Kondwani Jambo is a Senior Research Associate at MLW and Honorary Research Fellow (LSTM). He is one of Malawi’s top young scientists and is internationally recognised for ground-breaking work in TB immunology.
His research interests include Pulmonary immunity against respiratory pathogens and the impact of HIV infection on lung immunity with a focus on antigen-specific T cells and alveolar macrophage function.
Dr Jambo has been an important partner for MUST as he was instrumental in the development of the curriculum for the BSc program in Immunology.
Dr Jere is one of Malawi’s leading virologists. He currently holds a Wellcome Training Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine to understand immune responses in Malawian children immunised with rotavirus vaccine through high throughput immunoglobulin repertoire sequencing.