By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)

Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has grown from its humble beginning over 40 years ago to become a regional leader in human health research. The Institute currently ranks as one of the leading centres of excellence in health research both in Africa as well as globally.

The human health institute is therefore celebrating 40 years of research excellence in Africa since its creation from the defunct East African Medical Council. The institute has since developed with various units and centres across the country.

The naming of KEMRI Centres emerged based on the need for a focus on specific health conditions as well as type of research to be conducted. This has evolved over the years based on the need to realign and harmonize with National and International trends in health research as well as with programs of major collaborative partners.

Currently, KEMRI has 15 research centers with state of the art research facilities and laboratories spread throughout Kenya. Although the Centres have evolved to encompass emerging research needs, they were created based on research areas of expertise.

Over the years, KEMRI has developed a critical mass of highly skilled scientists and technical staff to enable it conduct competitive research ranking it as a leading center of excellence in research for health in Africa and globally.

Within the Health Sector, KEMRI is responsible for providing leadership in health research & development, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options and monitoring and assessing health trends as well as dealing with trans-boundary threats and disease outbreaks.

The Institute further continues to be responsive to the challenges of emerging and re-emerging diseases, including Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), communicable conditions and bio-terrorism. In addition, the Institute established the KEMRI Graduate School of Health Research that offers courses which are research oriented and geared towards solving national, regional and global health problems.

By combining the academic, research, and training capacity available in KEMRI, the Graduate School provides a very fertile academic and research environment for young scientists in particular, to carry out research on the current pressing health issues in the world today.

Other field stations and Research Units established in collaboration with various partners are located in Kericho, Kombewa, Kwale, Salgaa, Mwea, Kirinyaga, Msambweni, Malindi, Mtwapa and Taita Taveta.

The Institute’s activities are further organized into three (3) main thematic areas namely; Research & Development, Capacity Building and Training and Products & Services.

Under the thematic area of Training and Products & Services, KEMRI offers a wide range of varieties.

 KEM-Rub (Hand Sanitizer): KEMRUB hand sanitizer is an alcohol based hand rub with Isopropyl as the active ingredient. WHO-recommends formulation used and guarantees 99% riddance of pathogens in both vegetative and sporiform states. Efficacy-proves hand sanitizers and backed by studies that have shown superior performance as compared to similar products in the market. So, adheres to strict quality control.

TBcide(Standardized Decontaminant): TBcide is standardised chlorine based decontaminant that counters infectious agents, mycobacterium in particular and/or unintentional release of such agents from a containment facility.

TBcide is an affordable and effective decontaminant for laboratories and especially when handling Mycobacterium infected samples. Elaborate studies have been done by KEMRI to prove its efficacy at recommended concentration in laboratories handling Mycobacterium ssps as well as other general laboratories.

 Rapid Test Kits for HBV and HIV KEMCOM Rapid (HIV 1&2 Detection Kit) and HEPCELL Rapid (Hepatitis B Detection kit) These 2 kits have been approved by NPHLS and are currently awaiting WHO pre-qualification. Both kits are Chromatographic Immunoassays for direct qualitative detection of the respective viruses. The kits have a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 99%. On average they take 5-10 minutes to obtain results.

The kits are relatively cheaper than competing imported brands in the market. The quality of the kits is maintained and continuously monitored with support of the elaborate KEMRI research network.

KEMRI Hepcell Hemagglutination Test Kit for HBV: This kit is based on the traditional hemaglutination technology. It is cost effective for screening blood for Hepatitis B Virus.

 Ready-to-Use Culture Media: KEMRI Ready-to-Use Culture Media are produced under strict Quality Controlled conditions. Their quality is determined against internationally approved strains of micro-organism.

The manufacturing is done under ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485:2003 conditions. Delivery under strict cold-chain Chocolate Blood Agar, Sheep blood agar, Mannitol salt Agar, Mac Conkey Agar, CLED, Desoxycholate Citrate Agar,XLD ,Hektoen Enteric Agar (HEA), Sabaround dextrose Agar (SDA), Triple Sugar Ion (TSI), Lysine Indole Motility (LIM),TCBS, TSA, TSB, BHI, Mueller-Hinton agar (M_H)and Campylobacter.

Sheep blood:Sheep are reared under strict conditions required for provision of disease-free blood. Hemoglobin content guaranteed.

KEMTAQ (TAQ Polymerase) Is a DNA amplification kit used in PCR testing. KEMTAQ has been tested by KEMRI Laboratories and found to be good as popular commercial TAQ in the market. It is cost effective.

Molecular Biology Procedures & Services: Meant to support students and researchers who would like to carry out their own molecular procedures such as Nucleic Acid Extraction, Real-Time PCR, Conventional PCR (using thermo cyclers) and sequencing among others.  ELISA facilities are also available at affordable rates for the following; Real- Time PCR (with own reagents / materials).

Real- Time PCR (KEMRI reagents /materials, excluding primers and for simple PCR). Conventional PCR (using thermo cyclers with own reagents /materials). ELISA testing (excluding the test kits and reagents).  Use of ELISA Reader and Washer. Sequencing (coming soon!). Samples must be purified and primers must be provided.

Special Laboratory Waters & Buffers: KEMRI laboratory waters are produced under strict internationally established Standards. Manufacturing is done under ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485:2003 conditions. The waters are suitable for preparation of buffers, molecular biology procedures and preparation Quality Control. They include; Distilled Water for Laboratory use only, De-ionized water for Laboratory use only and Molecular Grade Water:

Microbiological Testing of Pharmaceuticals /supply of pyrogen-free water and pyrogen testing of pharmaceuticals

KEMRI pyrogen-free water is produced under strict internationally established Standards. Manufacturing is done under ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485:2003 conditions. KEMRI pyrogen testing services include the use of LAL and where need be rabbits thus; Microbiology testing of Pharmaceuticals (E. Coli, S. Aureus, C. Albican, hypha forming fungi), Pyrogen Testing and Pyrogen-Free water.

Proficiency Testing Materials: KEMRI has capacity to manufacture proficiency testing materials for various diseases. Currently PT for HIV is available commercially .The Department has instituted ISO 17043 systems.

Much of these products would be exhibited during the tenth, KEMRI Annual Scientific & Health Conference (KASH) scheduled from 11 to 13 February, 2020 at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya.

For more information contact: Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Marketing Department Office on Tel: +254(20)2722541 Ext 3430 or Email: Marketing@kemri.org or visit www.kemri.org.

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