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University Wins £500k Grant to help Combat COVID-19 in Uganda

The University of Salford’s School of Science, Engineering & Environment has been awarded more than £500,000 to address the threat of COVID-19 in Uganda.
The project is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.

This funding is one of the 20 projects that have been announced by the UKRI aimed at developing solutions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 for some of the world’s most disadvantaged people.

Prof Richard Birtles, chair in biomedicine, said: “We will be sharing the knowledge and experience gained by COVID-19 laboratories in the UK over the past six months with Ugandan microbiologists to accelerate reliable testing in the country.

“This is important, not only to help their national pandemic control efforts, but also to support exploration of the disease’s epidemiology.

“For example, most of our current understanding on SARS-CoV-2 risk factors, such as age and obesity, is derived from studies of patients in industrialised countries.

“There may well be a completely different picture elsewhere, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The 18-month project is focused on building capacity for COVID-19 diagnostics and molecular epidemiology in Northern Uganda, then applying these to help control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in South Sudanese refugee settlements and neighbouring Ugandan communities in the region.

Dr Ian Goodhead, reader in microbial genomics, and co-investigator, said: “Real-time pathogen surveillance, including that of SARS-CoV-2, has been revolutionised by the application of new, cutting-edge molecular tools.

“It’s critical now that we support building this capacity with our Ugandan partners to allow them to address immediate questions related to the COVID-19 situation in their country and to ensure this capacity is sustainable throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

The work is being delivered in collaboration with Gulu University, Makerere University, The Uganda Virus Research Institute, The Ministry of Health, the Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda, The University of Liverpool, Alderley Park Lighthouse Laboratory, The Royal Oldham Hospital (NHS Northern Care Alliance), Oxford Nanopore Technologies and Carramore International in the UK.

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