BMB in Africa

Diagnostics challenge medical inequities

Muunda Mudenda
By Muunda Mudenda
July 14, 2022

When I was growing up in Zambia, I had a teacher who made biology very interesting. One day, he walked into our classroom said, “The cell is more complex than New York City at rush hour.”

This statement fueled my interest in biochemistry and molecular biology, and years later, in 2015, it motivated me to move to Uganda to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry.

Inspired to study science by a biology teacher when he was growing up in Zambia, Muunda Mudenda now aims to help develop diagnostic technologies to improve the quality of health care in Africa.
Courtesy of Muunda Mudenda
Inspired to study science by a biology teacher when he was growing up in Zambia,
Muunda Mudenda now aims to help develop diagnostic technologies to improve
the quality of health care in Africa.

I now live in Kenya, where I am pursuing my master’s degree in molecular biology and biotechnology as a scholar with the Pan African University Institute for Basic Science, Technology and Innovation. The Pan African University scholarship, funded by the African Union through the African Development Bank with research funds contributed by the government of Japan, enables high-performing students to study for a master’s or Ph.D. at one of the PAU institutes in Kenya, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon and South Africa.

After I moved to Kenya in 2021, I began searching for a broader community of scientists committed to sharing their scholarly journeys in biochemistry and molecular biology. I found and joined the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, making me one of the few ASBMB members in Kenya and Africa.

The ASBMB has given me an opportunity to be a part of a society that encourages young scientists to be high-value professionals. I’ve been exposed to materials through meetings, webinars and journals that have challenged my understanding of research in my field. I especially enjoy going through the ASBMB journals to learn about the trends in BMB research. The insights I get from these journals help me to add a relevant voice to scientific conversations here.

As a student researcher with the Kenya Medical Research Institute, I am carrying out a research project in vaccinology and adjuvants. My study involves the use of adjuvants to improve robustness of immune response to current vector-based COVID-19 vaccines. My hope is that we will be able to use molecular biology to contribute to the building of a technology platform for future end-to-end vaccine manufacturing in Kenya.

While my primary area of research is vaccinology, I am exposed constantly to other applications of biochemistry and molecular biology. Particularly important has been medical diagnostics — the application of biochemistry and molecular biology to improve diagnosis of diseases. Our laboratory also handles research projects that focus on developing diagnostic kits for diseases such as COVID-19, malaria and hepatitis.  

Earlier this year, our laboratory worked on a rapid diagnostic kit for COVID-19. This project was very important because some remote areas of Kenya did not have sufficient COVID-19 testing kits, which made early detection of SARS-CoV-2 infections difficult. Being a part of a lab that develops such interesting medical technologies to solve real-world problems and improve management of diseases in Kenya has expanded my appreciation of biochemistry and molecular biology as applied in medical diagnostics research.

From my experience being involved in such projects, I think the growth of molecular diagnostics research in Kenya, and all of Africa, will help make diagnosis of diseases more accessible and affordable. Currently, high costs of medical diagnosis in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia have resulted is inequalities whereby only the well-to-do can afford diagnostic tools easily. I think advances in medical diagnostics can address such inequalities effectively.

Soon after my Master of Science degree, I hope to join a lab that develops and improves diagnostic technologies to improve the quality of health care in Africa.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Muunda Mudenda
Muunda Mudenda

Muunda Mudenda is a scholar with the Pan African University Institute for Basic Science, Technology and Innovation and a student researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

Related articles

Always in a hurry
René Fuanta
Seeing what I become: An academic journey
Ademola Adetokunbo Oyagbemi
Nights and days in the lab
Oluwaseyefunmi Iyabo Adeniran

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in Opinions

Opinions highlights or most popular articles

Fun in Seattle
President's Message

Fun in Seattle

Dec. 1, 2022

#DiscoverBMB 2023: Come to Seattle for the science. Stay for the aquarium!

The f -word (failure) in research: When good plans go bad
Books

The f -word (failure) in research: When good plans go bad

Nov. 29, 2022

This is an edited excerpt from “Life and Research: A Survival Guide for Early-Career Biomedical Scientists,” a book that started as a tweet, according to its authors.

Proteins for a green energy future
Essay

Proteins for a green energy future

Nov. 20, 2022

“We need giant steps, not small, if we are going to create the innovation in policies, political will, and technology needed to succeed with this existential problem,” writes Vanderbilt’s Borden Lacy.

A glimpse into the world of lipids
Interview

A glimpse into the world of lipids

Nov. 18, 2022

ASBMB’s Deuel conference provides "a bird’s-eye view of the field."’

Advocacy successes in 2022
Funding

Advocacy successes in 2022

Nov. 17, 2022

Here’s some of what the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee and public affairs department have been up to over the past year.

Inspiring the next generation of scientists
Annual Meeting

Inspiring the next generation of scientists

Nov. 15, 2022

Seattle-area high school students will be the Science Outreach and Communication Committee’s guests of honor on Community Day at Discover BMB.