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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Winfred Gatua

Mwaganyuma Mwatasa

Hannah Kimingi

Hannah graduated with BSc. Medical Microbiology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (2017). She is passionate about Microbiology and aims at improving human health through Biomedical research. Prior to being a PGD fellow, she has 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 is working on malaria with the aim of assessing the production of antibodies against P. falciparum variant surface antigen.

Dr. Mercy Atieno, BPharm

Mercy graduated with a Bachelors of Pharmacy from Kenyatta University in 2016. During her campus years she developed a passion for research and joined the Research Writing Group of Kenyatta University. As part of the group, she learnt basic concepts of research. She later undertook a study project as part of her undergraduate course to determine the accuracy of splitting tablets of drugs with a narrow therapeutic window; specifically carbamazepine. The report of the study was published online in the Pharmaceutical Journal of Kenya, sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya in 2017.

As a post-graduate diploma student, she is looking to be part of a study that aims to determine the impact anti-epileptic drug blood levels on seizure frequency and status epilepticus across 5 sites in Africa. She will also examine other epilepsy characteristics such as psychosocial consequences of the disease as well as related co-morbidities of epilepsy.

She hopes to pursue a Masters degree in Health Outcomes and Research in future.

Wilfrida Akoth

Wilfrida Akoth is a current post graduate diploma fellow researching on the Brevibacillus protein expression system for the expression of recombinant P. falciparum antigens for immunological screening. Under the guidance of Dr. James Tuju, she seeks to find a convenient way of expressing heterologous proteins that is affordable and produces quality heterologous in substantial amounts.

She is a graduate from Kenyatta University with a First class honours degree in Microbiology. In 2016 she was rewarded by the Kenyatta University Female students in science and technology (KUFESST) for being the best girl in the department of Microbiology and top three in the school of pure and applied sciences.

She did her attachment at the Kenya Plant Health inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in Muguga in 2016, where she gained exposure in modern molecular biology techniques. In addition she did another attachment at the National Biosafety Authority, Gigiri in 2017.

In future she wishes to delve more in to Immunology of infectious diseases gearing towards vaccine development for the malaria parasite.

Miriam Nyawira

Miriam is a PGD fellow at IDeAL-KEMRI-WT under the supervision of Prof Charles Newton and Ms Mary Bitta, with a keen research interest in Mental, Neurological and Substance Use Disorders. (MSND) She holds a BSC degree in Nursing and Public Health from Kenyatta University and a certificate in Leadership Development and Mentorship from the same institution. She also holds certificates in Paediatric Advanced Life support (PALS), ACLS and BLS.

Prior to becoming a PGD fellow, she interned at Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital, where she participated in the care of the mentally ill and rehabilitation of patients post substance use. She has also worked at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital where she was part of a team taking care of victims of gender based violence and patients with neurological conditions.

In 2011, she participated in the Secondary Schools Congress on Science and Technology for sustainable development under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and attained position two. In the same year, she represented Naivasha Sub County at the Nakuru county science congress and also attained position two.

She aspires to become a global health research leader and to promote evidence-based practices in the care and rehabilitation of persons with mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

Kefa Wairoto

Faith Okaalo

John Wainaina

Dennis Seronei

Bachelor of Science in Informatics
Moi University | 4th Year
Area of attachment: Information, Communication & Technology Department
Duration of Attachment: 15th May – 15th August 2017

Emma Mwakithi

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science & Technology
Chuka University | 3rd Year
Area of attachment: Laboratories
Duration of Attachment: 15th May – 15th August 2017

Elizabeth Kalenga

Bachelor of Science in Microbiology & Biotechnology
University of Embu | 3rd Year
Area of attachment: Laboratories
Duration of Attachment: 15th May – 15th August 2017

Sande Kahindi

Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry
Chuka University | 3rd Year
Area of attachment: Laboratories
Duration of Attachment: 15th May – 15th August 2017

Godlip Walusala

Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry

Katarina University | 3rd Year

Area of attachment: Laboratories

Duration of Attachment: 15th May – 15th August 2017

Amos Fondo

Bicko Juma

Brian Bartilol

Clifford Masi

Dennis Mukhebi

Zainab Kache