Makerere University gets $1m to tackle newborn sepsis

Saturday October 07 2023

Makerere University Main Hall in Kampala, Uganda. PHOTO | AFP


Makerere University in Uganda has secured €1 million ($1.05 million) funding to address sepsis in newborn babies, using a new low-resource test that can be conducted using a small drop of blood obtained from a heel prick.

Working with others, a team of scientists from Uganda has developed a novel approach to identify sepsis in newborn babies, which is a major cause of neonatal deaths, with 17 deaths occurring daily.

Existing tests for sepsis are hard to use on infants and normally do not produce timely results. The project named Neosepsis, aims to create a new low-resource sepsis test that can be conducted using a drop of blood obtained from a heel prick.

Read: Alarm as more babies in poor countries die from neonatal sepsis

This funding is part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Research Challenge, a collaboration between Science Foundation Ireland and Irish Aid. Makerere University, in partnership with Maynooth University in Ireland, has been awarded this funding based on the recommendation of a panel of global health experts.

The winning project, led by Dr Peter Waiswa from Makerere along with Prof Sean Doyle from the Department of Biology and Dr Nicola Mountford from the School of Business at Maynooth University, focuses on SDG3: Good health and well-being.


The SDG Challenge Programme, a collaboration between Science Foundation Ireland and Irish Aid, aims to support sustainable solutions that contribute to addressing development challenges in Irish Aid’s partner countries.

The announcement of the winning project was made by Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, and Sean Fleming TD, Minister of State for International Development and Diaspora.

“The team has made rapid progress since being selected for funding only 18 months ago. This progress demonstrates that working together, we can effectively tackle the SDGs and make a real difference on a global scale.”

The Neosepsis team is adapting an existing technology for the detection of serum amyloid A (SAA), a reliable biomarker of infection.

Read: Bacterial strain cited for deaths of newborns

The funding will enable them to progress towards regulatory approval, manufacture the tests, and conduct extensive evaluation studies.

Prof Doyle expressed his gratitude to the research teams involved, as well as the hundreds of families who participated in the initial trials. He also acknowledged the contribution of Accuplex Diagnostics Ltd in Maynooth, who provided their expertise and test device prototypes to support the project.