Dr. Wilber Sabiiti (BSc, MSc, PhD) is a Ugandan and an infectious diseases scientist who is working with the University of St. Andrews as Senior Research Fellow in medicine. Dr. Sabiiti’s passion for science and its role in changing lives began 15 years ago in a classroom teaching biology and chemistry in the current Ugandan district of Nakaseke, north of Kampala city.
The curiosity and enthusiasm of pupils about the why and how of science was infectious so much so that it made him want to explore deeper into the scientific fundamentals of life. With this inspiration he joined Makerere University Kampala (MUK) to read Natural Sciences.
He graduated from MUK with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree, majoring in biochemistry. Shortly after graduating from MUK, he was appointed teaching assistant in the Nursing Science Department of the Uganda Christian University, Mukono, where he taught biochemistry and microbiology to undergraduate nursing students. Teaching Biochemistry to nurses was a great experience that taught him the art of translating complex concepts to increase understanding and to meet the needs of students. Concept misunderstanding precedes failed application and or innovation.
Dr. Sabiiti holds a Master of Science degree in Molecular biology (Great Distinction) from the Free University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium and PhD from University of Birmingham United Kingdom (UK). His studies in Belgium were funded by the prestigious VLIR scholarship. He became the first African student to be awarded the Darwin PhD studentship at University of Birmingham. His doctoral research investigated the mechanism underlying cryptococcal infection of the brain that results in fatal meningitis among HIV/AIDS patients in Sub-Saharan Africa, results of which were presented at the 2014 International Cryptococcus and Cryptococcosis Conference (ICCC); at Dr. Sabiti won the award of ICCC best Young presenter.
While in Belgium he served as visiting Researcher at the University of Antwerp on a EU FP6 funded study fighting antimicrobial resistance in hospitals and its spread in communities. He evaluated and recommended the most accurate and cost-effective molecular diagnostic for detecting Methicilin resistant Staphlococcusaureus (MRSA) to be used in the European-wide study.
The spirit of connecting minds runs in Dr. Sabiiti’s veins. In 2012 he initiated the first research collaboration between the May laboratory at the University of Birmingham UK and the Michael Smith laboratories at the University of British Colombia, Vancouver, Canada. Since 2013 he has led the multi-national Pan-Africa biomarker expansion programme (PANBIOME) involving six countries from Africa and Europe and has trained over 20 African scientists and clinicians in the principles of molecular diagnostics for tuberculosis. This work led to the establishment of molecular units for rapid monitoring of TB treatment in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, creating a platform for transitioning from the old – slow techniques by which results come too late to be useful for clinical decisions.
His work in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania made him appreciate the strong culture-anthropological connectedness that exists between African communities, which well exploited can result in successful national and multinational research partnerships. Building on the connections and the lessons learned in PANBIOME, Dr. Sabiiti brought together a team of researchers from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the UK to form TWENDE. TWENDE operates on the philosophy that by working together we achieve big and make greater impact.
Dr. Sabiiti’s international research experience is a great asset to TWENDE. In TWENDE it is acknowledged that innovation isn’t complete until it reaches the users. By building bridges between research and policy making, TWENDE aims to accelerate the rate at which health research innovations are taken into policy and practice within the East African community.
Dr. Sabiiti’s research interests are understanding of the mechanisms underlying infection and progression to disease, diagnostics development and evaluation, and Implementation research to move innovations into policy and practice as well as assessing the impact of innovations under implementation. In addition to leading TWENDE, he’s currently leading consultancy with DNA Genotek Inc., Canada to evaluate novel kit for sputum preservation from TB patients in Mozambique.
Since 2012 Dr. Sabiiti has served as Doctoral Network Uganda (DNU) Chapter executive for Europe, bringing together doctoral students and postdoctoral professionals to advocate for evidence-based policymaking in Uganda.
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