Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) Institute of Clinical Research at the University of Nairobi has been rated as the best performing lab in the region.
Following its latest achievement, the institute under Prof Walter Jaoko who is the current director, is on the path to becoming a leading global research hub.
The 24 years old KAVI which was established as a research unit within the Department of Medical Microbiology, College of Health Sciences with the sole purpose of conducting basic research in the epidemiology of HIV and carrying out HIV/AIDs vaccine trials emerged as the best in tier 1 category in the 2021 External Quality Assessment Programme conducted by International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
The institute has been spearheading the global search for the HIV vaccine and by 2013, the research unit had successfully undertaken eight HIV vaccine trials, two drug trials, 13 epidemiological and basic research projects in addition to pioneering the development of mucosal sampling and standardization of mucosal immune assays.
And following in the footsteps of KAVI another sister lab, KAVI Kangemi clinic on the outskirts of Nairobi emerged the overall winner in tier 2 stamping the authority as the best labs in the region that saw them beat 10 other centres including South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.
“These awards were as a result of excellent work at the two laboratories. The awards will translate into the institute getting more funding to conduct research trials at KAVI,” said Mr Bashir Farah - Senior Director of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) – Kenya in charge of Laboratory Quality Assurance during the award ceremony at the institute on Tuesday.
Mr Bashir said IAVI supports clinical research in Eastern and Southern Africa that conducts clinical trials not only for HIV vaccines and other emerging infectious diseases but also for Covid-19, Ebola among others.
He said IAVI gives integrity and quality of the data that is being generated by these labs a lot of scrutiny as they compare the data with other international labs.
He said IAVI has categorised the labs into two-tier 1 includes the big labs while tier 2 labs are small labs that do HIV testing and pregnancy tests among other small tests.
“The awards by the two labs show the quality and integrity of the data that they generated for the past year are reliable,” said Mr Bashir.
This is the first time IAVI has launched the awards and the purpose is to encourage competitiveness among the labs within the IAVI network.
He congratulated KAVI for the good work and urged the labs to maintain their exemplary work.
Apart from HIV/AIDS vaccine trials, KAVI specialises in doing other clinical research, particularly clinical trials where it tests products that are going to be used by the general public like Ebola vaccine and Covid-19 vaccines among many other studies.
Prof Jaoko noted that the awards were a result of excellent work by the two labs and were very important as they showed the science research at the labs was producing high-quality results.
“This means we’re sure the results at our labs are of high quality and for us to be judged the best among the labs among 10 leading labs it means this is a great achievement for us and any other group that want to test their products can have confidence that whatever results they get from KAVI are reliable and accurate. This will translate into getting more research funding,” said Prof Jaoko.
Prof Jaoko observed that research funders want to put their money where they can get quality, adding “for us to be the top quality labs for clinical trials we foresee a situation where more and more funders are interested in funding their trials here at KAVI.”
KAVI has also been involved in the strengthening of Laboratory management systems of various health institutions to prepare the institutions for accreditation.
The proximity to the country’s largest referral hospital Kenyatta National Hospital and access to a well-established ethics and research committee are some of the additional advantages to KAVI institute.