The Initiative to Develop African Research Leaders (IDeAL) is a high-quality training programme designed to develop outstanding young African scientists into world-class research leaders. It is hosted by KEMRI – Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya. IDeAL is available to young researchers, from Undergraduate Research Attachments to Postdoctoral Fellowships, with the aim of keeping scientists at African institutions through a defined programme of recruitment, supervision and mentorship with the goal of establishing unique career paths for all students and fellows.

IDeAL is one of the 11 initiatives under DELTAS Africa (Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science in Africa) funded by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS)’s and Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) and supported by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency) with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the United Kingdom government.

IDeAL Team comprises over 200 persons including postdoctoral fellows, students, interns, mentors, supervisors, and the secretariat.

For more details on the schemes supported under IDeAL, visit the Programmes Page.

IDeAL builds on previous capacity strengthening activities at the KEMRI – Wellcome Trust Research Programme. As illustrated in figure below capacity building at the Programme has gone through different phases. During the earliest phase, 1989-2008, the emphasis was on building core structures to support research and training including high quality laboratory, clinical, field and ICT infrastructure. As these core structures expanded there was a gradual increase in the number of local researchers training at Masters and PhD levels, albeit on an ad hoc basis.  It eventually became clear that there was need to develop a coherent framework to manage and scale up research training activities at the Programme. This was achieved through the awarding of a Strategic Award amounting to 12 Million Pounds by the Wellcome Trust. The award supported research training activities from 2008 to 2015.

As a result of the Award capacity building activities in the Programme  expanded markedly. In addition, the award facilitated the centralisation and harmonization of capacity building management by providing a secure financial base that enabled long term planning of career paths.

In brief, between 2008 and 2015, 52 students were support to undertake PhDs and also received a further one year Postdoctoral support. 32 of these are Postdoctoral Reseachers at KWTRP and elsewhere while 8 are lecturers in local Universities. 5 have already received Wellcome Trust Training Fellowships.  88 people were supported for Masters training either directly or through support leading to the successful application for external Masters Fellowships (e.g. the Wellcome Trust Masters Fellowship). We have provided internships to  172 recent Kenyan graduates. Over 30 of who have now progressed through the research training to Postdoctoral level. Majority of the rest are either research assistants or Masters students elsewhere.

Importantly, work supported by the SA has contributed to development of a number of health policies and practice guidelines  in Kenya and Globally particularly for prevention and treatment of early childhood illnesses. In addition, it has been presented in over 200 conferences and resulted in over 300 peer-reviewed publications (>150 first author papers – >50  in journals with an Impact Factor of >4,  and > 150 non-first author papers – >30  in journals with an Impact Factor of >4.


African-led research solving African and global health issues


To generate a critical mass of African Research Leaders


Attract – To attract young African to research

Train – To provide high quality research training

Retain – To support the retention of African researchers in the Continent

Nurture – To nurture emerging African research leaders

Dr. Sam Kinyanjui

Dr. Sam Kinyanjui is the Head of Training and Capacity Building at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme in Kenya and the Director for the Initiative to Develop African Research Leaders (IDeAL). Prior to current position he pent 16 years doing research on the immunology and molecular biology of malaria parasites. During this period he developed a strong interest in capacity building for health research in Africa.
As the Head of Training and Capacity Building at the KWTRP in Kenya he provides scientific, and strategic guidance for academic training towards research leadership. His key achievement has been the development and implementation of a comprehensive research career framework for attracting, training and retaining African research leaders. Through the framework Dr. Kinyanjui has overseen the training of over 200 graduate interns, the majority of who have taken up a research career after the internship. This scheme has now been developed into a nationally accredited Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research Methods. He has also overseen over 100 Masters and over 70 PhD training since 2008. In 2015 Dr. Kinyanjui was awarded a further 8 million pounds by the Wellcome Trust/DIFD to build on this work through the Initiative to Develop African Research Leaders (IDeAL)
Regionally, Dr. Kinyanjui is involved in advocacy for increased commitment to building research capacity in Africa by both African governments and funding agencies. In 2006 he worked at the African Union Headquarter promoting health research agenda within the Union. He also sits on the advisory boards of several African capacity building initiatives including MUIIplus, SSACAB, SANTHE and the TDR Global Community Adhoc Workgroup.

Dr. Dorcas Mbuvi

Dr. Dorcas Mbuvi

Dr. Francis Ndung’u

Dr. Francis Ndung’u

Francis did his earlier education in Nairobi, Kenya, before proceeding to the National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK, where he did his PHD in immunology with Dr Jean Langhorne and Prof Kevin Marsh. He was awarded the PHD in 2005, after which he took up a post-doctoral training position at the same institute, and was successful at implementing a new programme of research in quantifying antigen-specific memory B cells in a mouse model of malaria. He moved back to Kenya in 2008 as post-doctoral researcher, with the aim of obtaining own funding to start and build a research group. His main areas of interest are: (i) immunological memory to malaria in historically infected individuals, and, (ii) hosts factors responsible for increased susceptibility to P falciparum malaria in a small proportion of children that experience excessively more malaria than expected.

Mwendwa Mutuku

Mwendwa Mutuku

Mutuku holds a B.A Degree in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of Nairobi and a member of the Public Relations Society of Kenya. He has previously worked for local and international organisations such as the Africa Union/United Nations Information Support Team in Somalia, Kenya’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation and FilmAid International.

He is a passionate communication professional who has managed media and public relations for national and intergovernmental agencies and non-profits and participated in successful communications and media campaigns. He is an all-rounder with nine years of experience in public relations; digital strategy development and execution; branding and marketing; graphic design and production of multimedia content. He believes in channelling the power of media to impact lives and influence positive social change on behalf of multilaterals, socially-oriented non-profits, and private-sector creative agencies. He is highly skilled in conceptual and visual storytelling.

Liz Igombo-Murabu

Liz Igombo-Murabu

Liz Igombo-Murabu is the Students’ Administrator for IDeAL and KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme. She has spent the last 10 years playing a vital role in ensuring the smooth and efficient management of the training of nearly 150 academic trainees ranging from school leavers and undergraduates attachees, Postgraduate Diploma, Masters, and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows funded under IDeAL.

She joined the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in 1996 and has served in different capacities within the Programme. She has been the training administrator since 2008 supporting both academic training and continuing professional development of over 800 staff. She also holds a HND in Executive Assistance, a Diploma in Administrative duties from Cambridge International College, UK, Certificate on Leadership and Management in Health Systems with the University of Washington and a Certificate in Computer Operations and Business Applications from The Mombasa Polytechnic. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor degree in Executive Business Administration Programme with specialization in Management and Administration with Cambridge International College, UK.

Rita Baya

Rita Baya

Rita Baya joined KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme in June 2012 and currently holds the position of an Administrative Assistant. She is tasked with Office management, Interface administrative functions of various projects, Travel Management from Reservations, transfers, travel authorization documents, Itinerary coordination, foreign & local travels, Organize & coordinate logistics for local and international meetings, trainings, seminars, workshops, conferences. Documentation i.e. reports, filing and documents archiving. She has over 5 years’ experience in Administration and holds a Bachelor degree in Administration from Kenya Methodist University.

David Ngui

David Ngui

David Ngui joined KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme in November 2013 and is currently tasked with producing both internal management reports and grant donor reports with a key focus in ensuring timely, accurate and complete recording, reporting of financial transactions according to accounting best practice and donor reporting guidelines. He has over 5 years’ experience in auditing and finance, having previously worked as an Audit Assistant and Assistant Accountant in auditing and micro-finance institutions in Kenya.

He is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology and is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration at Kenyatta University.

Pascal Mbamungu

Pascal Mbamungu

Pascal joined the Programme in October 2015 as a Software Developer and is tasked with developing and supporting IDeAL’s information systems.

Prior to joining the team, he worked in the Telco and PRSR industry developing innovative mobile solutions for several individual and corporate clients.

He is a seasoned software engineer with over 7 years of proven and tested knowledge and experience in the areas of systems design, development, and integrations.

He holds a BSc in information systems from the University of Portsmouth, UK and a Higher Diploma in software engineering from Aptech, India.

Florence Kirimi

Florence Kirimi

Florence Kirimi joined the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in August 2016 as the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for IDeAL. She is responsible for implementing the Monitoring and Evaluation activities of the Training Department, assisting the Head of Training in monitoring the Department’s activities on a regular basis, developing and maintaining the Department’s MIS and for collecting and analyzing different data in relation to the Department’s activities. She also prepares periodic reports on the training activities including those supported under IDeAL grant.

She holds a Masters’ Degree in Public Health with over 5 years’ experience in implementation of Monitoring and Evaluation for development projects which include developing M & E Plans, logical frameworks, output, monitoring and impact indicators for projects, participating in regular project reviews, Preparation of annual progress reports for feedback to donors and other stakeholders.

Dr. Alun Davies

Dr. Alun Davies

Alun Davies has over 20 years experience in science education, health research and community engagement in Kenya: nine years as a science and senior teacher at urban and rural schools in Kenya; followed by eleven years as a researcher at KWTRP. Prior his current post, Alun managed an HIV research project in Kilifi, employing 50 staff at three sites to initiate HIV clinical trials. Alun’s current role in community engagement draws on a combination of his experience in education and health research towards facilitating engagement interactions between researchers and school students. Over the past six years, Alun has established a ‘Schools Engagement Programme’ (SEP) which facilitates interactions between researchers and up to 1000 students form 25 schools a year. The activities are aimed at promoting positive attitudes towards science among secondary school students; and promoting mutual-understanding between health researchers and the community. SEP has also enabled Kilifi students’ views to be incorporated into the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party report on Ethical Issues for Research Involving Children. Alun’s current research explores ways of evaluating engagement with health research using a combination of quantitative, qualitative and participatory approaches.

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Moses Njagi Mwaniki

Njagi Mwaniki holds an undergraduate degree in Informatics from Moi University and currently working towards a master’s degree in Bioinformatics at Pwani University. He worked for two years in Software Engineering before moving into Bioinformatics where he’s supervised by Dr. George Githinji and Dr. Pjotr Prins working on exploring virus genomic data using variation graphs using currently existing software and developing new tools. He strongly believes in the ability of graphs to represent sequence data and that the current methods used to represent sequence data will be replaced by methods that inherently represent variation and wants to be there when the change occurs.

Matano Emmanuel Rumba

My name is Matano Emmanuel and I am doing immunology. I did BSc. Zoology for my undergraduate at Pwani University. I am now in my second year doing MSc. Immunology under the IDeAl studentship scheme. My current study is on understanding the role of Plasmodium falciparum extracellular vesicles (PfEVs) on host immune regulation specifically the role of PfEVs on host immune downregulation as a mechanism for immune evasion by the malaria parasite which has been shown to happen in other infections such as cancer. I am working towards becoming an independent health research scientist who can identify a research problem in health and come up with a solution. I have a strong interest in extracellular vesicles and I look forward to working on the same but with viruses particularly for my PhD. My supervisors are Dr. Abdirahman Abdi and Dr. Cheryl Andisi.

Hannah Wanja Kimingi

Hannah graduated with BSc. Medical Microbiology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (2017). She’s currently an MSc Immunology student at Pwani University under IDeAL. She is a former PGD student where she was working on understanding the role of antibodies against P. falciparum variant surface antigen. Prior to being a PGD fellow, she volunteered and gained Biomedical laboratory experience at the Institute of Primate Research. During her undergraduate, she gained Microbiology, Molecular, Immunological and Serological lab work experience from KEMRI, Nairobi, and Thika Level 5 Hospital. She’s interested in infectious diseases with key emphasis on diagnosis, immunity, and strategies which may, in turn, improve human health lowering the mortality and morbidity rates arising from infectious diseases.

Lynn Nanjala Fwambah

Lynn Fwambah is currently an MSc Immunology student under an IDeAL scholarship. She graduated top of her class from the University of Nairobi with a BSc Biochemistry First Class Honours. Following this, she was awarded a studentship by IDeAL to pursue a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research Methods. Her PGD thesis was a systematic review on the effects of haptoglobin in bacterial infections. Her interests lie in HIV immunology and she would like to focus on determining what immunological and genetic factors that elite controllers possess that enable them to suppress HIV viral load without antiretroviral therapy. This information may be useful in identifying possible vaccine candidates.

Cecillia Nafula Wechessa

Growing up, I had the constant need to give a helping hand to people and interest in scientific research. This led me to pursue a degree in Biochemistry at Egerton University. Currently, I am a student at Pwani University under IDeAL Immunology Masters Studentship.  I started off as a volunteer at a local dispensary and high school.  I later joined The Institute of Primate Research for my personal attachment and acquired skills on molecular work, tissue processing and Immunological techniques. Later on, I joined Nyumbani Diagnostic Laboratory for my Industrial Attachment where I gained basic medical laboratory skills. For my internship I was trained on procedures such as phage therapy and microscopy, just to mention a few, at IPR. My primary interest lies on understanding the human immune system in relation to emerging non- communicable diseases and how such knowledge can be used to improve the well-being of the African population.

John Nderitu Kimotho

I have a background in BSc. Medical Laboratory Science and Technology from the University of Nairobi class of 2018. I am also a licensed Laboratory Technologist by the Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists board. Before the studentship, I worked as a Laboratory Technologist in a hospital which has equipped me with admirable laboratory technical skills. I have also done clinical attachments at Kenyatta National hospital and Mbagathi District Hospital. I am currently in my first year of study pursuing a Master’s degree in Immunology as an IDeAL student at Pwani University. My interest lies in the area of vaccine development which I believe to be the smartest human invention ever. I am precisely interested in malaria vaccine development which has proven troublesome over the years. I foresee myself holding a PhD within 5-10 years and at the same time leading a research group in a research institution or an academic institution.

Christine Kalekye

I did my undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University and studied BSc in Microbiology where I graduated with First Class Honors. I am currently an MSc student in Immunology at Pwani University under IDeAL studentship. I have interned with GreenLife International Company where I also worked as a marketer for herbal medicine. I amassed incredible knowledge of effective herbal medicine form local plants. I have interned with Equity bank as a Wings to Fly program alumnus and a full-time mentor under Equity Leaders Program (ELP). My current area of interest is pharmacogenomics of anti-malarials in response to P.vivax and P.falciparum, which I am enthusiastic to start on once I finish my course work.  I look toward to do my PhD in the future and join research fellowships like Future Leaders-African Independent Research Fellowship (FLAIR).

Jeremiah Waswa Wanyama

I am Jeremiah Waswa Wanyama, a master’s student in Immunology at Pwani University under IDeAL- KEMRI. I hold a bachelor’s degree in BSc in Biochemistry from Pwani University. During my BSc degree I did a research project where I addressed the health side effects of triclosan based antiseptic soaps to the immune system. I did my internship at Institute of Primate Research where I did much of reproductive immunology during endometriosis study in quantifying the level of immune reactions towards the drug testing trials in baboons.

I inspire to be senior research scientist in the area of viral immunology especially in HIV infection in addressing the gene silencing in targeting the transmission mode of virus. This will be possible after undertaking a PhD program in viral immunology. I look forward to become a university lecture, take administrative roles and being involved in community development programs.

Berrick Otieno

I am a master’s student at Pwani University in collaboration with IDeAL. I have a background in BSc Nursing and Public Health from Pwani University and hold a certificate in Health System Management from Pwani University/IDeAL. I have done research related short courses on including systematic literature review offered through Cochrane Interactive Learning and Management of Human Resource for Health (HRH), a program offered by MoH-Kenya/USAID. I have developed strong client-facing and teamwork skills through my 1-year internship at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital and 3 years of clinical nursing at Aga Khan Hospital-Mombasa. My MSc project is ‘Association between electroencephalographic features and neuropsychiatric comorbidities of epilepsy’, I am supervised by Prof Charles Newton and Dr. Symon Kariuki. We aim to determine if electroencephalographic features can be biomarkers for psychiatric disorders. I aspire to do a Ph.D. after Masters and join neuroscience scientist.

Kashero Kaingu

I have a background in social sciences and I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in Public health at Pwani University. I have completed my coursework and am now doing my project. My project is on HIV amongst adolescents in Kilifi and my topic is ‘’Academic achievements and experiences among adolescents living with HIV in Kilifi.’’ My main inspiration towards doing a Master’s in Public health and a project that gives emphasis to adolescents living with HIV is embedded on the view that there has been little effort on these adolescents which in turn will affect the health outcomes of the general population in the near future and therefore something needs to be done to salvage the situation. My supervisors for this particular project will be Professor Amina Abubakar and Allan Davies in whose tutelage I expect to grow competently in research.

Bernadette Kutima Ataku

Bernadette Kutima holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Microbiology from Pwani University. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Immunology. Her study focuses on cloning and expression of recombinant protective Dengue envelop proteins for immunological screening. Her research interests entail genetic investigations of organisms of importance to public and environmental health, use of bacteriophages against antibiotic-resistant bacteria in biomedical setting and the related host immune responses to the viral agents once exposed, the potential use of DNA vaccines to help the immune system develop protection from a disease and the use of nanotechnology in treatment and diagnosis of diseases as seen in various articles. Her supervisors are Dr. James Nyagwange, Prof. Suhaila Hashim and Prof. George Warimwe

Elizabeth Indeje

Elizabeth Indeje holds a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Pwani University. She is currently an IDeAL Masters Fellow pursuing MSc Immunology at the same university. Her research focus is on investigating the effects of nutritional status on immunity and vaccine responses in Kenyan children. Her current interest lies in understanding malnutrition, immunity in infants, and vaccine humoral responses with the desire to understand how malnourished children respond to vaccines in quest to provide mechanistic insights, which can be utilized in designing interventions targeted to alleviate malnutrition to complement vaccination in children and thus improve their health. Besides, Elizabeth has a particular interest in volunteer work and mentorship through encouraging and empowering Kenyan high school students sponsored by Equity Group Foundation.


Robert Mugendi Mugo

Holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research Methods from Pwani University and Bachelor’s Degree from Kenyatta University. In addition, he holds a Certificate in Leadership and management. He is currently an MSc Immunology student at Pwani University in collaboration with KWTRP, under IDeAl sponsorship. He aims to determine the kinetics and longevity of RTS,S/ASO1 induced complement-fixing antibodies, this will be essential in the development of a highly efficacious and long-lasting Malaria Vaccine.Previously worked on sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of Rotavirus strains, to find out whether there is potential for the development of vaccine escape mutants. Robert is passionate about understanding immunity to infectious diseases, specifically Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

Mercy Wanjiru


Dr. Sara Atkinson

I did my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at South Eastern Kenya University. I am currently doing my Master’s project at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust which is titled, “Using Mendelian Randomization to investigate the relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and tuberculosis.” Since my project cuts across three major fields in the medical field: Infectious diseases; nutrition; medical statistics, I am positive that the diverse skills and mentorship I will have gained from this project will be sufficient to steer me into a career am passionate about- medical research. My supervisors are Dr. Sarah Atkinson of Kemri-Wellcome Trust and Dr. Tom Yates of Imperial College, London.

Lewis Murugu Mukiiri

I graduated from the University of Nairobi with a BSc in Microbiology & Biotechnology (2018). Currently, I am an IDeAL MSc. Immunology student at Pwani University. I started my journey in science by volunteering at Githongo Sub-county hospital, Meru. Essentially, I acquired basic medical lab skills and participated in community outreach programmes for diabetes awareness. I later joined KEMRI (CRDR) for my industrial attachment where my Molecular and Microbiology laboratory skills were heightened. Prior to joining IDeAL, I worked as a Research Assistant with JHPIEGO in the Postpartum Family Planning (PPFP) Choices Study. I was involved in coordinating with facility clinicians to identify and recruit eligible participants into the study. What is more, I have special interests in understanding malaria and human host immune responses to Plasmodium falciparum antigens. Additionally, how such knowledge can be used to address the need for an effective malaria vaccine.

Maureen Wanjiru Mburu

Maureen Wanjiru Mburu, pursued Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology and Biosafety at the University of Eldoret. She is currently a Postgraduate Diploma student in Health Research Methods. Research topic; Biology of Tungiasis, Tunga penetrans genome project. I look forward to being an eminent researcher in the health sector and to use the skills obtained to make a positive impact on the health sector. I have interest in Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics.

Ezra Too

I pursued Nursing and Public health in my undergraduate level at Pwani University and currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma in health research methods; a course that is jointly offered by Pwani University and Kemri-Wellcome trust. My project is titled, ‘Burden and risk factors for common mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders among young people living with HIV in low and middle income countries.’ Supervised by professor Amina  Abubakar and Moses Kachama. I aspire to be at the forefront of the research field, to be part of a community that aims to make the world a better place through research.

Kelvinson Mwangi

I’m an IDeAL post-graduate diploma fellow of Health Research Method under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Atkinson and John Muriuki and based at the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP). I’m passionate about using statistical techniques and methodologies in assessing evidence to inform better decisions. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Applied Statistics with IT from Maseno University. My work focusses on evaluating the association between Malnutrition and Malaria in African children: the effect of malnutrition on malaria-specific antibodies (MSP1 and AMA1) and whether malnutrition influences the natural immunity to malaria.

Audrey Mumbi

My name is Audrey Nyawira Mumbi. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy. I am a Post Graduate Diploma student working on a project on ‘Examining the policy and implementation of HIV prevention through private retail pharmacies in Kenya’ supervised by Dr Peter Mugo. We aim to understand the policy environment surrounding the HIV prevention policies; HIV self-test kit and Pre-exposure prophylaxis, their implementation in private retail pharmacies and strategies that are required to enhance their delivery and impact.

As a holder of a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy I have a keen interest to build a career in health system research. I aspire to pursue a master’s degree in health systems and eventually a PhD in the same and become a renowned health researcher.

Yvonne Kamau


Dr. Marta Maia

I am Dr. Yvonne Kamau, a registered Pharmacist and an alumnus of the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Currently, I am part of the IDeAL programme as a Post Graduate Diploma Fellow in Biosciences, undertaking a research project on mosquitocidal effect and pharmacokinetics of different ivermectin dose regimens in preparation for a randomized controlled trial. Through this research project, I intend to advance work on the current malaria control interventions and possibly contribute to research work on Malaria eradication through the guidance of distinguished faculty such as my supervisor Dr Marta Maia. My interests lie on the impact of health policies on the achievement of quality, affordable, accessible and equal health for all, in line with SDG #3.