Walter Reed National Medical Center Community
WRAIR Celebrates 50 Years of Research Partnership in Kenya
Story by Samir Deshpande on 09/12/2019
This week, WRAIR celebrated the 50th anniversary of its laboratory headquartered in Kenya, the U.S. Army Medical Research DirectorateAfrica, and 20th anniversary of its component laboratory in the Kenyan city of Kericho. Part of WRAIR’s network of expeditionary laboratories around the world, these programs foster U.S.-host nation collaborations in biomedical research, product development, outbreak response and disease surveillance to support Soldier health and global health.
Activated on a temporary basis in 1969 at the invitation of the Kenyan government to address a trypanosomiasis outbreak, the venture was made permanent in 1973. Operating as the U.S. Army Medical Research UnitKenya (later as the U.S. Army Medical Research DirectorateKenya) for much of its history, the name USAMRDA was adopted in 2018 to reflect and coordinate WRAIR activities across the African continent. The Kericho laboratory, located amidst the tea-growing highlands, boasts broad capabilities including Kenya’s first College of American Pathologists-accredited laboratory.
The directorate’s 50th anniversary celebration was held at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. With remarks from representatives of the U.S. embassy, Kenya Medical Research Institute, WRAIR and an original member of the trypanosomiasis project, as well as distinguished guests from critical partners like the Kenya Defence Forces and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for Military Medicine, the event highlighted research and public health accomplishments, including disease surveillance and clinical trials for vaccines and therapeutics against malaria, HIV and Ebola. The 20th anniversary celebration of Kericho was a smaller event including WRAIR leaders, scientists, community leaders and organizational partners.
WRAIR and USAMRDA study military-relevant diseases to develop field-ready products to ensure Soldiers are medically prepared to fight in all five stages of multi-domain operations. Current work includes surveillance of endemic infectious disease threats to inform combatant command medical prevention efforts as well as countermeasure development strategies; a phase 4 implementation study of the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine, RTS,S, with GlaxoSmithKline; continued research into HIV care and prevention and upcoming trials to evaluate a vaccine against traveler’s diarrhea.