Institute of Primate Research (IPR)-InterUniversity Program for Molecular Biology (IPMB) Workshop and Practical training in Biotechnology for Kenyan Students

Kariuki, C. K. (Member of programme committee)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipating in or organizing an event at an external academic organisation


Workshop and practical training in biotechnology (Institute for Primate Research, Nairobi, Kenya, September 20th to 29th)

Biotechnology is the application of concepts and methods of biology, in combination with the other branches of science, namely physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, to solve real-world problems related to the life sciences. Biotechnologies have greatly enhanced the biologists’ capacity to manipulate organisms. This has yielded many benefits with regards to disease diagnosis and therapy, pharmaceutical innovation as well as industrial development. Examples of such products emanating from the Biotechnological sciences abound, in the medical field, e.g. human growth factor, insulin, interferons, hormones, vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, antivirals; in the food technology industry e.g. recombinant chymosin as a food additive, recombinant gelatine production; in the agricultural industry e.g. disease and pest resistant crops, tissue culture derived elite planting materials; and last but not least, in the environmental sciences e.g. modification of Deinococcus radiodurans to digest toluene and mercury from radioactive waste, myco-remediation of diesel polluted soil.
Despite these strides in Biotechnologies, many of these research products remain out of the reach of the developing world, particularly sub Saharan Africa. Opportunities seeking to link the principles applied in Bio-engineering to the real-world problems in the continent remain largely untapped. Many institutions in Africa, such as the IPR have the basic equipment to carry out molecular biology techniques as well as access to the internet for bioinformatics analyses. However, the skills to apply these technologies in the field are at a highly nascent stage. There is still a great need for capacity building focused on biologists to deliver and apply Biotechnologies in their respective fields. Our target group, mainly graduate students (BSc and MSc) in Kenya, are in urgent need of these skills to address the technology gaps in their research programs. This training was provided by VUB staff and IPMB alumni (MSc Christopher Kariuki, PhD student and the assistant of IPMB and Dr.Steven Odongo, the former IPMB assistant and now lecturer at the Makarere University (Uganda). This training workshop was adapted from a 3-week preparatory course attended by graduate students in the Molecular Biology program (IPMB) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB), Belgium.
The practical training took place in the labs of the Institute for Primate Research where all facilities and equipment were present to accommodate 47 trainees.
The reagents needed were provided by the project.
Flemish professors gave a thorough theoretical background in the form of lectures before the students undertook practical work.
Our main objective was getting motivated and excellent students from the South thoroughly informed about the IPMB programme. As such, the workshop was both a practical/theoretical training and a promotion event for the IPMB. The workshop focused on a limited number of stringently selected students who possibly will join IPMB soon. These have already expressed their interest in studying abroad in the field of molecular biology.
Additionally, the workshop gave graduate students (BSc and MSc) from Kenyan institutions, hands-on experience and working knowledge of the basic molecular biology, immunological and bioinformatics techniques that can be applied in their own research programs as well as disseminated to other researchers in their home institutes. Efforts were focused on acting on three complementary components i.e. practical skills, theoretical knowledge (acquiring and sharing) and professional networking.

Period20 Sep 201730 Sep 2017
Event typeWorkshop
LocationNairobi, Kenya