UGANDA—Professor Moffat Nyirenda, a Professor of Medicine and Global Noncommunicable Diseases from Malawi, has been appointed Director of the Medical Research Council.
The Medical Research Council is made up of two organizations: the Uganda Virus Research Institute and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit.
He will succeed Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, who has led the unit for the previous 13 years, on April 1, 2024.
The appointment was made after an elaborate recruitment process including public health experts from several African and UK institutes, which was overseen by a professional executive search agency.
His distinguished career has ranged from molecular medicine to clinical and public health research, including studies into noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.
During Prof. Kaleebu’s tenure, Prof. Nyirenda oversaw several achievements, including expanding the unit’s research competence beyond HIV into other viral pathogens, vaccine research, and non-communicable diseases, and educating many young scientists as the next generation of health leaders.
He is also passionate about African capacity building and will now devote his focus to immunovirology research.
Prior to assuming this position, Prof Nyirenda was Deputy Director of the MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit.
He also worked at the University of Edinburgh as part of the MRC Clinician Scientists Fellowship program before returning to Malawi as Associate Director of the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Research Programme.
Before joining the MRC/UVRI &LSHTM Uganda Research Unit in 2016, Prof Nyirenda was Director of the Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit.
Prof Nyirenda earned a PhD in Molecular Medicine from the University of Edinburgh and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.
While accepting the offer, he stated that he was very honored and pleased to assume the job of Director of this excellent Unit at this critical juncture.
He was hopeful about contributing to its future success by establishing new opportunities, enhancing research topics in strategic areas, forging intentional collaborations and partnerships, and maximising their ability to translate findings.
He concluded by observing that the stars are aligned for their mutual success as a regional focus of excellence in research and training.
LSHTM Director Liam Smeeth welcomed the announcement, stating that Prof Nyirenda impressed him with his vision for the Unit, his calm authority, and his evident quality as a scientific leader, and that he is looking forward to working with him to build on the Unit’s successes.
Prof Patrick Chinnery, MRC Executive Chair, on his part, commented that Prof Nyirenda is an exceptional researcher in endocrinology and metabolic disorders, and that his current position as Deputy Director has given him a thorough understanding of the Unit and its potential.
He expressed confidence that his leadership will boost the Unit’s position as an international hub for world-class science that not only solves significant health concerns confronting Ugandan communities, but also has global importance by addressing fundamental questions.
He concluded by stating that he will to build on the substantial legacy of the outgoing Director, Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, and ensure that Unit’s research is translated into real-world policies that benefit patients both locally and regionally.