Mak acquires Shs2.6b Covid machine

Friday July 23 2021
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The Senior Field Service Engineer of ZEISS, Mr Granbille Rax, tests the electron microscope at Makerere University. The machine will be used to develop Covid-19 vaccine and drugs. PHOTO/ Damali Mukhaye

By Damali Mukhaye

Makerere University on Wednesday unveiled a Shs2.6 billion machine that will be used by scientists at the university and across the country to develop a Covid-19 drug and vaccines.

Unveiling the high tech machine at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (Cedat), Prof John Baptist Kirabira, the principal investigator at the college, said the microscope can see nanoparticles that normal machines cannot see.

“This machine is capable of doing a number of things including forensics, mineral identification, among others,” he said.

He added: “This machine will be helpful in finding a Covid-19 vaccine and drug because it can identify ingredients involved and does chemical analysis effectively. It can give you images at a high magnitude that cannot be done by normal microscopes.”

Dr Kirabira said the machine can help to look at active ingredients for drugs, formulation and thesis and can also be used to test if the drug reacts in a negative way or not.

The machine is the first of its kind in East Africa and fourth in Africa. South Africa has two and Ghana has one.

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The vice chancellor of Makerere University, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, yesterday said government released Shs37 billion to buy equipment to address Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen Makerere also benefiting.

“This is a very important machine and we can do a million things with it. We used to send out samples to Europe and paid a lot of money. With this machine in the country, we shall save our Uganda from marginalisation,” Prof Nawangwe said.

Government Senior Research Associate Dr David Serukka said government expects many products analysed and processed using the equipment.

The machine comes at a time when government and scientists across the country are struggling to find a vaccine for Covid-19.

During the World Health Summit last month, President Museveni said a locally developed Covid-19 vaccine would be ready by end of 2021 to help the country combat the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Mr Museveni said countries where Covid-19 vaccines are being developed are limiting or stopping the export of vaccines as they focus on their population against the agenda of global equity for the vaccine.

“This selfishness in the world [where countries are refusing to share vaccines] is bad but it is also good, it wakes up Africans... Our researchers are now entering stage five and by November, they will be in stage eight. I can assure you that by the end of 2021, we shall no longer be waiting for outsiders to rescue us from mass deaths,” Mr Museveni said.

The country plans to vaccinate 21.9 million people but so far, only 1.1 million people have been inoculated.

How it works

According to the Senior Field Service Engineer from Carl Zeiss Limited, Mr Granville Rex, researchers have to dry all materials they want to research about and place it in front of the machine to get results.


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