The IMPAACT Network is pleased to announce the recipients of the Early Career Investigators Award program. The four early career investigators will complete a project using data or samples generated by IMPAACT Network studies:
Dr. Nyarai Soko
Harare Institute of Technology
Dr. Patience Atuhaire
MU-JHU Research Collaboration
Dr. Violet Korutaro
Baylor College of Medicine Children's Foundation - Uganda
Dr. Chikondi Malamba-Banda
UNC Project Malawi
Dr. Nyarai Soko
Nyarai Soko is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, School of Allied Health Sciences at the Harare Institute of Technology, in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is also a fellow of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) of the University of Cape Town. She was awarded a PhD in Human Genetics by the University of Cape Town. Nyarai holds a Masters in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology as well as a Bachelors (Honours) in Biology and Biochemistry both from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She has worked over a decade in industry working in both production and quality assurance at organisations like Nestle Zimbabwe and Irvine’s Day-Old Chicks. She also worked as a research scientist at the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre. She now currently teaches Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Pharmacogenomics to Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) undergraduate students at the Harare Institute of Technology. Nyarai has a keen research interest in the human genetics of African populations and how they affect disease diagnosis as well as treatment and management of disease. She has worked with the Harare Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Institute assisting in the diagnosis of rare inherited eye disorders such as anophthalmia and more common disorders such as congenital cataracts and keratoconus. She has also developed an interest in the genomics of carcinogenesis especially genomic drivers of cervical cancer especially in women co-infected with HIV. She has over the years developed a portfolio driven by the low representation of African populations in pharmacogenomic studies. Pharmacogenomics is a branch of both human genetics and pharmacology that investigates the effect of genomic variation that leads to differing treatment outcomes amongst patients. African populations were historically underrepresented in the development of drugs and effects of genomic variation in therapeutic outcome studies yet they are a genetically diverse population. Therefore, her research centres around how African populations interindividual inherited differences lead to differing therapeutic outcomes. Her research looks at the pharmacogenomics of diseases that plague the African continent including dyslipidemia, hypertension and now HIV. Nyarai is the current Vice President of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Society of Zimbabwe (BMBSZ) and sits in the Executive Committee of the regional body, the Federation of African Societies of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as the Meetings Counsellor.
Pharmacogenomics of overall weight gain in women enrolled in the IMPAACT 2010 study.
Dr. Patience Atuhaire
Dr. Patience Atuhaire has over 11 years’ experience in HIV related research at Makerere University Johns Hopkins University (MU-JHU) Research collaboration, Kampala, Uganda. She holds a medical degree (MBChB) from Mbarara University of Science and Technology (2008) and a Master of Public Health at Makerere University School of Public health (2019). She completed the Harvard medical School Global Clinical Scholars Research training program with a commendation in the capstone project (GCSRT-2014). She is a co-Investigator of the Moderna Vaccine trial (COVPN 3008) and a study coordinator of the Metabolic Impact of Dolutegravir to Postpartum women living with HIV and their infants at the MUJHU site. She was the lead principal investigator of PROMOting Adherence to ART (PROMOTA) study a sub study of the US PEPFAR funded multi-site PROMOTE (PROMise Ongoing Treatment Evaluation longitudinal study at MUJHU. She has participated in the oversight of implementation activities of the NIH funded Promoting Maternal and Infant Survival Everywhere (PROMISE) a phase III Prevention of Mother to Child transmission of HIV trial, the Maternal Repeat Pregnancy Bone Health Study assessing the Bone Mineral Density changes among women living with HIV having multiple pregnancies and breastfeeding; Neurodevelopmental (ND) study whose participants’ were co-enrolled from the PROMISE trial and the SOAR funded small research utilization grant to promote HIV disclosure in children (Dialogue Intervention to Support Communication and Openness (DISCO kids) as a study coordinator. She has authored research articles as primary author and many others as co-author in peer reviewed journals. Dr Atuhaire has a passion for leadership and serves as the President of the Association of Uganda Women Medical Doctors (2023-2025) among other community-based positions.
TORCHES and relation to Preterm Delivery and Low birth weight among pregnant women living with HIV and their babies in the IMPAACT 1077BF trial
Dr. Violet Korutaro
Dr. Violet Korutaro, a Ugandan medical doctor and Research Investigator committed to improving maternal/ child health, works at Baylor College of Medicine Children's Foundation-Uganda ( Baylor- Uganda) Clinical Research Site (CRS # 31798).
Dr. Korutaro began her academic journey at Makerere University, earning a Bachelor's degree in Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) in 2004. Fueled by an interest in public health, she pursued further studies at the University of London, securing a Master of Science in Public Health with a specialization in Health Promotion in 2013. She further strengthened her skills by obtaining a postgraduate diploma in project planning and management skills from the Uganda Management Institute in 2017.
Before her current role as a Principal Investigator and Investigator of Records for IMPAACT studies at Baylor-Uganda CRS, she made significant contributions as a Medical Officer in various research projects, including the CHAPAS-3 and RELATES studies. In 2013, she transitioned to a leadership role as the Senior Medical Officer for Research in the CAfGEN study, marking a critical turning point in her career. In 2015, Dr. Korutaro was selected as the Clinical Research Site (CRS) Coordinator for the newly enlisted Baylor-Uganda CRS for the JHU Kampala/Uganda Clinical Trial Unit. In addition to her CRS coordination role, Dr Violet started her active role as an Investigator for the IMPAACT P1115 study. Her interest and dedication to research led to her selection as the Baylor-Uganda CRS's Investigator of Records for IMPAACT studies, with her leading as the Principal Investigator in several fundamental studies, such as IMPAACT 2009, IMPAACT 2010 (VESTED study) and IMPAACT 2017 (MOCHA study). Dr.Korutaro has consistently been an eager learner. She has received numerous certifications and specialized training, reflecting her expertise in diverse facets of medical research. Her affiliations with prestigious professional bodies, including the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioner's Council, her role as a SCORE Manual CHAMPION for DAIDS, and her membership in the Study Coordinator working group of HANC, underscore her esteemed standing in the medical and research community.
Her contributions also encompass presentations and scholarly publications. She has co-authored several impactful research papers in prestigious journals, primarily focusing on HIV treatment and prevention, with a particular emphasis on pediatric care.
Dr. Korutaro is known for her proficiency in diagnosing and treating tropical diseases and her expertise in HIV/AIDS care. Her adeptness in managing adverse events and her knowledge of epidemiology, health promotion, and research methodologies make her an invaluable asset to the research teams.
Breastmilk Biomarkers of Inflammation, Immune Activation, and Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) in Women with vs. without Vertical Transmission During Breastfeeding
Dr. Chikondi Malamba-Banda
Chikondi is a Laboratory Director at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Project in Malawi. Previously, she was a Lecturer in Immunology at Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST). Chikondi holds a dual PhD in Immunology and a PhD in Medical Laboratory Science obtained through a joint registration from the University of Liverpool, UK and the University of Malawi respectively. She also holds a BSc in Medical Laboratory Technology and a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Public Health obtained from the College of Medicine (COM) Malawi (Currently called Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS)).
She recently assumed the role of Laboratory Director at the UNC Project after successfully completing her PhD studies. Driven by her keen interest in gaining immunology expertise and establishing an immunology laboratory at the UNC project, in Malawi, she began exploring opportunities with the invaluable guidance and support of her mentors. My prior experiences include active involvement in various immunology-based research projects with the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust, experiences that have significantly shaped my professional journey.
She aims to become an independent Biomedical Research Scientist conducting translational immunology research. Her PhD research work was understanding the immunological factors of low Rotavirus vaccine effectiveness in vaccinated Malawian infants. She is very enthusiastic about progressing to her next project, which involves delving deeper into the immune responses of infants to Rotavirus vaccination. Rotavirus still remain the common cause of diarrhoea amongst children across the world with the highest burden experienced in developing countries. Understanding the Rotavirus vaccine-induced immunity will inform the design of the new more effective next-generation Rotavirus vaccines for use in the high burden area.
Characterization of B Cell Repertoires in HIV-1 Infected and Uninfected Infants Vaccinated with Live Attenuated RotaTeq Vaccine