During the course of last month, I visited a range of research institutions in Kenya to present labfolder to their representatives, scientists and students. One of our core intentions with labfolder is to increase the level of collaboration and knowledge exchange among biological and medical scientists globally. Therefore, we highly appreciated the opportunities to present labfolder in Kenya. Based on the digital lab notebook we want to develop an innovative research platform together with and according to the needs and demands of users all around the world.
Over the past decade, strategic investments in the science sector together with collaborative efforts from African scientists and colleagues and institutions in other parts of the world have led towards the establishment of state-of-the-art research centers in various regions of Kenya and the rest of the African continent. Most of these institutes are focusing on applied sciences in the fields of medical and agricultural science. One of their major goals in Kenya is to tackle global challenges such as climate change, poverty relief and the development of drugs against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. In the following, we briefly feature the institutes and departments we visited:
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi is working towards mitigating tropical deforestation, land depletion and rural poverty through improved agroforestry systems. Agroforestry has proven to build up soil fertility and prevent soil erosion, while also benefitting subsistence farmers and their families through various tree products: fodder, fuelwood, food, building materials and more. Highest standards of infrared, x-ray, and laser spectroscopy are being applied to dry and wet soil sample analyses.With its headquarters in Nairobi and five regional offices located in Brazil, Cameroon, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Malawi, ICRAF is a member of the alliance of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres.
The Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) Institute of Clinical Research at the College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi, is focusing on research and training in global health. The institute is conducting basic HIV epidemiology research, various HIV vaccine trials, basic science, and epidemiological research studies in order to improve the understanding of the underlying determinants of good health for prevention of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
The Centre for Biotechnology & Bioinformatics (CEBIB) at the University of Nairobi was founded as a virtual research centre to train postgraduate students at MSc and PhD level in biosciences (biotechnology & Bioinformatics) in the academic year 2005/2006. The program’s mandate is to develop capacity and manpower for the development of Biotechnology. The Centre’s teaching and research is strengthened through the participation of international visiting academics from affiliated institutions.
The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is the national body responsible for carrying out health research in Kenya. KEMRI has developed a critical mass of scientists and technical personnel and nowadays ranks as a leading centre of excellence in health research in Africa and globally.
Also located in Nairobi and in close proximity to KEMRI are the headquarters of the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit in Kenya – the Walter Reed Project. Its Department of Emerging Infectious Diseases focuses on the development of drugs and vaccines for HIV prevention and treatment, as well as drug development for malaria and other tropical diseases.
A relatively new research institution is the Centre for Research in Therapeutic Sciences (CREATES) at Strathmore University. The Centre is a consortium of local and regional academic and research institutes with the objective to conduct and promote cutting-edge innovative and relevant research in Therapeutic Sciences and medical genetics addressing key health issues in Kenya and the East African Region.
Mount Kenya University (MKU) in Thika (about an hour drive from Nairobi) is a private non-profit institution established in May 2008. It is one of the rapidly expanding universities in East and Central Africa with a focus on science and technology programs. It’s Research and Development Division works on Research, Institutional Linkages, Enterprise and Innovation, and Community Outreach.
The feedback received from the presentations of labfolder in Kenya was generally very positive. The fact that a digital lab notebook allows for planning, documentation and monitoring of your data from any electronic device with internet access was greatly appreciated.It was often asked if it is possible to link labfolder to other softwares and services. In the consecutive development of labfolder, we will later link to external services as well as making labfolder accessible through an API. Thus, connections to scientific softwares and programs will allow our users to easily exchange data packages between platforms and to securely navigate between experimental planning, data storage and results documentation.
Kimani Francis A. Njogu, student at Kenyatta University says:
With my undergraduate project in molecular biology I have gained many practical skills in the lab. The combination of information technology and biology has spiked my interest and I believe there is a great future in bioinformatics and computational biology – more so in drug designing and discovery which is my focus in scientific research. The presentation of labfolder was very insightful – I think it can really facilitate the daily tasks of planning and documentation when performing experiments. I am looking forward to using it in my next project.
What I take home from my visits at the above mentioned Kenyan institutions is that research in Africa is evolving rapidly and growing steadily within the international scientific community. Global standards of research are improving on a daily basis, and so they do across Africa as well. The research institutes in Kenya are home to many accomplished scientists constantly working and publishing in renowned journals. The institutes hold different international laboratory accreditations and are in continued partnerships with other laboratories inside the country and across nations and continents.With the development of our labfolder research platform, we aim at facilitating knowledge transfer between institutions and internationally. Meanwhile, the digital lab notebook of labfolder is meant to speed up and facilitate planning and documentation at the lab bench for individual scientists and research groups.
Author: Johanna Havemann