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Message from the Director KEMRI.

By Solomon Mpoke, PhD, IOD(K), MBS; Director KEMRI

Dr.BulimoLadies and Gentlemen;

Attaining Kenya Vision 2030, the nations economic blueprint, requires a fresh perspective in the way we perceive research and KEMRIs role in national development. The link between health and poverty is self evident as each impacts the other resulting in a vicious cycle where poor health is both a result and a cause of poverty. As such, dealing with one without being cognizant of the other only serves to derail the desired impact. Health research should therefore be linked to economic development through promotion of human and social development, and also more directly through industrialization as we strive to attain a knowledge-driven economy, and middle income status by the year 2030. This is reflected in the theme of this years conference, Towards a healthy, globally competitive nation: Vision 2030 flagship Projects, which affirms KEMRIs role not just in human and social development but also as a key contributor to the knowledge economy through R&D and innovation. This conference therefore serves to showcase excellence in research as the bedrock of this theme.
Two major ground breaking research results emanating from research carried out by KEMRI and our collaborators have recently been listed among the top 10 technological breakthroughs of the year by the journal Science. This includes the phase III clinical trial results of the candidate malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01 whose early results have shown prevention of clinical and severe malaria in children with, respectively, 56% and 47% efficacy. The multicentre trial was conducted in 11 sites across 7 African countries, in which KEMRI played a significant role, having hosted 3 of the 11 sites at the KEMRI/CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration in Kisumu, the KEMRI-Wellcome-Trust Research programme in Kilifi and the KEMRI/Walter Reed Project site at Kombewa. The other major breakthrough in which KEMRI has been involved is the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) multinational clinical study, HPTN 052, which demonstrated reduction of HIV transmission in serodiscordant couples by an astounding 96% through the early treatment of HIV using ARVs. Both studies have revitalized the fight against the scourge of these diseases not just in Kenya but the world over. Additionally, KEMRI remains committed to the national and WHO roadmaps for the control and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by the year 2020. Significant advances have been made on this front with results emanating from DNDi, of which KEMRI is both a founding member and partner, informing the WHOs policy recommending paramomycin-sodium stibogluconate (PM-SSG) combination as the first line treatment for visceral leishmaniasis in East Africa. This combination is as effective as SSG used alone, with the additional benefit of reducing the duration of treatment from 28 to 17 days of hospitalization, significantly reducing the cost of healthcare to the patient and strain on health systems.
Further to the excellent research coming out of KEMRI, the conference will also highlight special areas of public health interest through dedicated symposia focusing on road safety, NTDs, bioethics, health systems and social sciences research, addressing aspects of health and human/social development. For the first time, a symposium on pharmaceutical and health products innovation, focusing solely on the business of science will seek to address the aspects of knowledge economy and industrialization. As we gear up for 2012s research activities, I invite all of you to share in the fruitful deliberations and draw inspiration from the theme for this years 2nd KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health Conference.