KEMRI Wellcome Trust

The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme is well known internationally producing work that has had a major influence on national and international health policy. Research spans a wide variety of topics and disciplines including research on malaria and bacterial and viral infectious diseases, work to map disease risk and intervention coverage and work on research ethics and health systems strengthening. Formally established in 1989, in partnership with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), researchers now tackle basic, clinical, epidemiological and public health research in parallel, with aims to expand the country's capacity to conduct multidisciplinary research that is strong, sustainable and internationally competitive.


It also has increasing links with researchers and institutions in Africa and across the globe that helps make the programme a centre of excellence in the region.

Strong community links are at the heart of the Programme, with an emphasis on capacity building and training to build scientific leadership and create a critical mass of support from trained research and non-research staff.

The programme is organized into four broad research departments for: Clinical Research, Pathogen, Vector and Host Biology, Public Health Research, Epidemiology and Demography. Many researchers are however contributors to more than one department and cross-cutting studies are a feature of the programme’s work.


Clinical Research

Clinical research is in many ways the ‘’heart’’ of the overall Programme, with bed side and clinic based research linking into epidemiological surveillance, basic science and health systems research as well as research on ethics and communication.

Clinical surveillance over 20 years at Kilifi District Hospital (KDH) has generated a unique database of around 80,000 consecutive paediatric admissions. Having such a comprehensive data source led naturally to the recognition that children entering hospital often have multiple interacting pathologies and that a focus on the severely ill patient was more appropriate than on any single disease entity.


Pathogen, Vector and Host Biology

Current research work focuses on the development of immune responses to a range of pathogens (malaria parasites, bacteria and viruses) in carefully characterized cohorts of children in Kilifi District, understanding how these pathogens cause disease in humans and, monitoring and identifying mechanisms of the development of pathogen drug resistance. In addition the department addresses a number of aspects of malaria mosquito vector biology.


Public Health Research

Public Health Research is undertaken by researchers based in Kilifi and Nairobi from a wide range of disciplines including epidemiology, geo-spatial science, clinical and allied medical professions, health economics, social science, and education.

It aims at providing critical research information to inform decision making to promote quality, coverage, efficiency and equity of health systems. Investigators have a long history of collaborative work with policy makers in Kenya and increasingly in the region to help inform the development, implementation and evaluation of health system policies and interventions. As a result researchers regularly provide technical advice to policy makers in areas spanning malaria control to national clinical guidelines and options for health care financing. An additional important contribution has been in the arena of research ethics and community engagement in research.


Epidemiology and Demography

With over 180 members of staff and 35 active studies, the Epidemiology and Demography (ED) Department is the largest of the Departments at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP).

The core work of the ED Department revolves around epidemiological studies on issues of relevance to the local population and to the region. Its focus is to conduct epidemiological research in various disciplines, especially in the areas of genetics, respiratory and invasive bacterial diseases. The Department also provides supervision and management of the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System (KHDSS), which provides the infrastructure that, underpins a range of research activities within the Programme.