Photo showing buildings on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda
Kampala, Uganda

Uganda-CWRU Research Collaboration celebrates 30th anniversary with events Oct. 25-26

Case Western Reserve University’s partnership with Uganda all began with an invitation. In 1986, the Ugandan Minster of Health invited the late Frederick C. Robbins, CWRU professor and dean emeritus and Nobel Laureate, to the country for his recommendations for addressing the AIDS epidemic. With that, a spark was lit.

Two years later, a formal relationship was formed, founding the Uganda-CWRU Research Collaboration. The collaboration celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and to mark the milestone, events will be held today and Friday with special guests from Uganda.

The festivities begin today (Oct. 25) at 5:30 p.m. in the Linsalata Alumni Center with a cocktail reception and special event titled “How Decades of Success Battling HIV/AIDS Can Help Shape the Future.”

Peter Mugyenyi, who is recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the world’s foremost specialists in HIV/AIDS, will speak at the event. Mugyenyi is chair of the Uganda National Academy of Science Research Committee and former executive director of the Joint Clinical Research Centre.

Register for the panel discussion event through Eventbrite.

The celebration will continue Friday, Oct. 26, with a symposium discussing the Uganda-CWRU Research Collaboration’s accomplishments and opportunities to expand the partnership. The symposium will begin with a breakfast at 8 a.m. in the Biomedical Research Building, Room 105.

History and progress of the collaboration

Following Robbins’ visit to Uganda, he recognized the potential to form a lasting partnership with the country.

With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Robbins and Samuel Okware, then-director of the AIDS Control Programme in Uganda, established the International Collaboration for AIDS Research in 1988. This would be the start of the formal partnership.

“Little did any of us imagine that [Robbins’] vision would carry us through 30 years,” said Janet McGrath, professor of anthropology. “The outstanding work of our collaborators in Uganda and across CWRU is humbling to reflect upon and I am gratified to have been part of this important research program. Today, the collaboration, although still centered in the School of Medicine, extends across the university to include, not just the Department of Anthropology but also engineering, law and nursing here and in our partner university, Makerere University.”

Since then, the collaboration has seen significant growth, with a focus on public health, clinical and biomedical research, training and capacity building.

The collaboration has received more than 100 grants that have provided more than $200 million in funding, coming from such benefactors as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Medtronic Foundation.

Since the collaboration began, prevalence of HIV in Uganda has reduced significantly.

Prevalence has gone from 35 percent in the early 1990s to around five percent in the most recent national surveys.

“Naturally, the hard work of many people and institutions has gone into such a dramatic accomplishment. Our partnership, I’m happy to report, has been one of the most crucial factors in this inspiring reduction in prevalence,” said School of Medicine Dean Pamela Davis.

While the collaboration continues with a focus on AIDS, it also has shifted to include an additional emphasis on using the infrastructure created to address non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and hypertension.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the reason for Frederick C. Robbins’ initial visit to Uganda.