Meet the Ugandan Scientist Who Developed the Rapid Ebola Test

Agnes Nanyonjo, Karolinska Institute

A Ugandan scientist has developed a rapid diagnostic test that can detect Ebola proteins in less than five minutes at the point of care in the community. This is the first rapid diagnostic test that is able to detect various strains of the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

In 2013 and 2014, Misaki Wayengera applied for a patent with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

Patents are granted to inventors to give them exclusive rights to make, use and sell their inventions. On average it takes about one year for a patent to be awarded by the World Intellectual Property Organisation and five years for it to be awarded by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation.

During this time, the inventor is expected to further develop the product and explore ways in which the product can be delivered to the market. If the patent is awarded, anyone wanting to use or sell this rapid test will need to seek Wayengera’s permission in order to do so.

Uganda will take credit as the home country of the scientist behind the innovation but Wayengera’s journey to discovering the rapid diagnostic test has been a difficult one. It has been characterised by a desperate lack of government funding and support – although Uganda has been in dire need of a rapid test for Ebola.

Wayengera’s troubles underscore the plight faced by many young researchers in Africa – missed opportunities and a lack of political commitment towards innovation, research and development.

The funding challenge

Between 2000 and 2001, Uganda had an Ebola outbreak in three of its districts. At the time, it was considered the largest outbreak on record, infecting more than 425 people. The mortality and morbidity rates of this outbreak have since been dwarfed by the more recent —> Read More