COVAB’s outstanding Researchers recognized during the 74th Graduation Ceremony
Five of the best researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB) were during the 74th graduation ceremony recognized for their outstanding contribution to the body of knowledge. They included Dr. Enoch Matovu with 48 publications, Dr. Eddy Wampande with 37, Prof. Denis Byarugaba with 36, Dr. Kato Drago with 33 and Prof. Frank Nobert Mwiine, who is also the Principal CoVAB with 30. These were some of the beneficiaries of the inaugural Makerere University Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards given to all Colleges and the University Library.
The graduands that the college presented included 7 Ph.Ds, 58 with Masters Degrees, 212Bachelor Degrees and 5 with Post graduate Diplomas. The PhD Graduands were Agutu Claire, Atim Stella, Driciru Margaret, Kizza Daniel, Mayanja Martin Nsubuga and Othieno Emmanuel.
While making his pronouncement on day three of the 74th graduation ceremony on Wednesday 31st January 2024 when CoVAB presented her students, Prof. Nawangwe noted that with support from various partnerships, the University’s research output in terms of innovations and publications had increased. He said the recognition of outstanding performers in research and publication was based on the highest number of publications between the year 2017 and 2023 according to the Scorpus database. He urged all staff to continue conducting research on national development priorities as well as matters of global interest and publishing their work in high-impact journals so as contribute to the university’s drive to become research-led.
The College was applauded for the increased research output and community outreach initiatives, that not only helped to improve on food security but also support efforts towards combating disease. Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe pointed out that the college was spearheading the development of the anti-Tick Vaccine and that the Trials of this vaccine were on-going in several districts with promising results. He said the College entered into a memorandum of understanding with a private company to produce the vaccine commercially. He however noted that there were attempts to frustrate this project which is one of the Presidential initiatives and pledged to undertake further investigations and inform the appropriate authority accordingly.
Research, Innovation and Outreach.
In the area of research, Prof. Nawangwe said CoVAB as a College has continued to excel in research and community outreach in a number of Biomedical and Applied research projects with support from the Government of Uganda, through the Science, Technology, and Innovation secretariat, Office of the President. The college, he said, has been supported to establish a Biomarker discovery and translation research laboratory at COVAB. Under this initiative, Government has procured over twenty-eight (28) pieces of equipment to support the development of point of care diagnostic kits for infectious and non-communicable diseases including cancer. The goal is to translate identified biomarkers into point-of-care diagnostics for both human and veterinary medicine. In addition, the platform supports drug target discovery and elucidation of drug action mechanisms.
Furthermore, the College staff were involved in investigating the genetic markers for tolerance of the tsetse fly transmitted “Nagana” disease by some indigenous cattle, in order to inform programs to raise cattle breeds that can survive and remain productive in tsetse infested areas. This is complemented by an EU funded “COMBAT” project that aims to evaluate the socioeconomic burden of Nagana, identify and type the circulating trypanosome parasites, as well as determining biochemical and immunological markers for disease tolerance, towards progressive control and elimination of this animal disease as a major constraint to animal productivity and economic prosperity.
Improved Laboratory infrastructure
The Vice chancellor said with support from the Science, Technology and Innovations-Office of the President (STI-OP), CoVAB benefited from the laboratory infrastructure and technical capacity improvement. A Central Laboratory Animal Research Facility to support pre-clinical studies in animal models for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics was set up. This is alongside refurbished laboratories at Biosafety Levels 2 and 3 (BSL2, BSL3), fitted with state-of-the-art equipment to execute cutting edge basic and applied research.
Using COVID-19 as a model, the college was in advanced stages of development and production of 1 vaccine and 1 diagnostic, while ably supporting similar endeavors by other partners such as UVRI. Noteworthy was that the established infrastructure and research platforms can be applied to all diseases. This, he said, strategically places the college and Makerere at large in position to confront major animal and even human health challenges as significant proportions of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases are of animal origin (Zoonotic).
Electronic Rabies Surveillance using a One Health Approach
In the area of combating Rabies in the country and the region, the Vice Chancellor noted that the College with support by the Swiss Government was championing the elimination of Rabies through the use of electronic surveillance. Rabies, he observed, is a global challenge being a zoonotic disease affecting the entire world more so here in Africa where there is close interaction between the wild animals and the human population. Using a one health approach, the college with partners that include the University of Zurich is working with graduate fellows and other stakeholders drawn from Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, and Uganda Wild life authority among many others.
The Norbrook Veterinary Academic Excellence Award 2024
While recognizing the contribution by various partners in the realization of the Core mandate of the University, teaching and learning. Prof. Nawangwe mentioned such organizations including Norbrook (U) Ltd, who since 2021 continue to prize the best performing Veterinary students with cash prizes of Fifteen Million (15) Shillings annually. ‘We are gratified to note that these Veterinary excellence awards that were launched as part of the golden jubilee celebration of veterinary education in Uganda since the opening of the faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Uganda in 1971, are still on and running’, he said, while congratulating Norbrook (U) Ltd, the University and CoVAB management and the recipients of the award during this 74th Graduation ceremony namely; Kawuma Denis who scored a CGPA of 4.36, Kyomukama Baker Raymond who scored a CGPA of 4.25, and Atutambire Jonathan who scored a CGPA of 4.17.
Appreciation of Government Support
Nawangwe pointed out that it would not be possible for Makerere University to realize all these achievements had it not been for the unwavering support of the Visitor, the Minister, Parliament and the entire Government. He conveyed his appreciation to the President and the entire Government for the continued support to Makerere University, especially the support to staff welfare and the Research and Innovation Fund. ‘We once again pledge our commitment to serving our country with maximum dedication through training of highly skilled human resource, research for development and support to Government programs including the Parish Development Model and measures aimed at achieving the Sustained Development Goals’, he committed.
A Word to the Graduands
The Vice Chancellor, while addressing himself to the graduands said Graduation Day was the most important and most memorable day in the life of any scholar. It is not only a license to succeed in life, but also a license and a privilege to serve humanity. ‘You have worked hard to get a degree or diploma from one of the best universities in the World. This is a license for you to succeed in whatever you choose to do in your life career. But always remember that success will only come with discipline and hard work, while honoring your parents and fearing God’.
Later in the evening, the best researchers from the college, and the best graduands received their certificates and cash prizes respectively during a luncheon organized by Makerere University Convocation, presided over by Dr. Joseph Muvawala, Executive Director, National Planning Authority. The event, the first of its kind was held under the theme’ Career Beyond Degrees’.
Written by Harriet Musinguzi