By George Achia
Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has introduced an innovative way to close the gap between research and commercialisation of research findings.
KEMRI is among the local, regional and international research institutions engaged in various scientific research activities in Kenya but with little commercialised products in the market to help tackle the challenges facing the country and Africa at large.
According to Dr. James Kimotho, head of production department at KEMRI, the trend is rapidly changing among their scientists and others who used to do research for publishing and the research results would end up laying on shelves without turning the findings into a product or service.
“There have been concerns that Africa sits on enormous scientific knowledge that if such knowledge could be turned into commercializable products and services, livelihood on the continent would be improved,” noted Dr. Kimotho emphasizing that immense scientific knowledge exists within the region but most of it remain unused.
“Scientists have been doing research and after publishing, that was the end. But this is changing,” said Dr. Kimotho.
He pointed out that through technology transfer system, they have been able to reverse the situation.
“As production department, we pick from where the scientists have left. What we do is to call the scientists and discuss what they can do with their innovation,” said Dr. Kimotho adding that this approach has enabled KEMRI to generate more funds to support other research activities within the institution.
Through the KEMRI graduate school of health sciences, Dr. Kimotho noted that masters and doctorate students are funded with a condition to come up with a product at the end of their studies.
“Funds generated from selling the products are bumped back to fund other students,” he told journalists from various African countries who visited the institution during the training in Nairobi, Kenya organized by International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications and the African Federation of Science Journalists.
Products developed and commercialized by KEMRI’ production department include among others a rapid test kits for HIV 1 & 2, screening kit for hepatitis B and the facility also produces HIV proficiency testing panels.
Dr Kimotho observed that the sale of these products have earned KEMRI millions of shillings which is ploughed back to fund more research. This he says has improved research activities at the institution.
KEMRI has been doing research to improve human health and quality of life through research and service delivery.