My research collaborators in Kenya including Dr. Joseph Mwangangi, Dr. Martin Rono, Prof. Simon Muriu together with the Vice Chancellor of Pwani University and other researchers.

Research is void without a network of key players. It is like solving a puzzle with pieces. Every piece is crucial.

Hi, I am Olivia Wesula Lwande. I am a Research Fellow and Docent at the Department of Clinical Microbiology, Umeå University. I am also a Principal Investigator with the UCMR. The UCMR visiting scientist mission I had the chance to do in September 2023 was a worthwhile and intriguing experience!

My research focuses on the virus-mosquito and mosquito-host interactions. To undertake this kind of research, there must be relevant infrastructure in place. Moreover, since my research is mainly interdisciplinary as it relates to more than one professional specialization including arbovirology, entomology, molecular biology, immunology, vector biology as well as bioinformatics. The interdisciplinary approach resonates with the UCMR’s mandate as it is a consortium of scientists representing different fields of expertise such as chemistry, physics, and biology to carry out quality research.

At Umeå University, we lack an ACL-3 lab and human malaria facility. Hence, the ongoing collaboration between the Department of Clinical Microbiology and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust and the Pwani University Biosciences Research Centre (PUBReC) as well as an extension with the Centre for Virus Research (CVR) and Malaria laboratory situated at the KEMRI headquarters Nairobi together with the KEMRI Graduate School is crucial as they have the necessary infrastructure, biosecurity levels beyond Biosafety level 2. The collaborating institutions house an insectary and human malaria facility where they perform parasite culture and other related experiments. Therefore, a physical research mission to the facility was important to fortify our collaborative ties as well as pave the way for interinstitutional utilization of core facilities and research exchange. I went there in between 8th -and 20th of September 2023.


The overarching purpose was to meet face-to-face with the Kenyan collaborators to discuss the projects of mutual interest, and research exchange and explore the utilization of available relevant infrastructure including the malaria facility, Arthropod Class-3 laboratory, and the established Bioinformatics platform.

I had three specific aims:

  1. To expand the ongoing North-South collaborations in mosquito biology, and arbovirus research with the KEMRI-Wellcome trust PUBReC through the generation of research ideas of mutual interest.
  2. To explore the possibilities of technology transfer and skills training for masters, PhD and postdocs.
  3. To investigate the possibility of utilizing the ACL-3 lab and human malaria facility situated at KEMRI headquarters and KEMRI-wellcome trust for projects that cannot be performed at CliMi UmU

Highlight of my mission

The visit strengthened our ties and built confidence in the commitment to a mutual collaboration. A new realm of ideas, the possibility for research exchange as well as establishing a memorandum of understanding were of key interest. The highlight was the willingness of all teams to support each other. For example, they agreed to host my PhD student to achieve her set goals by exposing her to bioinformatic training which I believe is what she is yearning to have hands-on experience. Also offering her the platform to transcend her current research from the lab to the real scenario in the field is exciting. The goodwill to initiate relevant projects that could generate preliminary findings as we solicit relevant grants through drafting joint applications. Through the network, I have been able to select an international Postdoc who will be funded by the Kempe grant.

Way forward

The key is to establish a clear mode and cooperation amongst the involved collaborators with the aim of capacity building through training and diagnostics not only for students but also for staff. This will aid in supporting and fostering institutional development especially by identifying areas of strength and looking out on how to tackle the weak points and/or missing links. Establish proper communication channels and data-sharing sites.

Outside science

Research should also be blended with fun and worthwhile experiences. I enjoyed the ambience of the breeze emanating from the Indian Ocean, the sunrise and sunset, the seafood, coconut juice, the warm welcome, the company, and silly peals of laughter. These are memories to preserve.

Please enjoy some more photos from my stay in Kilifi and Nairobi

Visit to different mosquito sampling habitats in the Coastal region of Kenya.

Sunrise in Kilifi at 6.30 am.

Visit to the Pwani University Biosciences Research Centre (PUBReC).

Infrastructure available at the KEMRI-Wellcome trust .


I would like to acknowledge collaborators from Kenya Dr. Joseph Mwangangi, Dr. Martin Rono, Prof. Simon Muriu Dr. Samuel Ashimosi Khamadi for the well-coordinated research mission. Finally, the former leadership of UCMR consisting of the Director, Prof. Wu, Yaowen, Assistant Director, Prof. Director Frisan, Teresa and the Research Coordinator, Ingrid Söderbergh for providing me with the opportunity to perform the mission.