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Khamis Tomusange has one big dream – to bring an end to the current global HIV pandemic.
Supported by The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF), Khamis is working tirelessly to make his dream a reality.
“I come from Uganda, a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS. I’ve had a chance to work in a HIV setting for four years in Africa and came up close to communities ripped apart by the disease. I’ve seen people suffer. I’ve been at the forefront of research in this area,” he said.
Having completed his PhD in virology, based at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI), Khamis has created and tested two vaccines for HIV, a virus he has personally witnessed tear families apart. He has had two successful research papers published as well as a book chapter and has been invited to speak at two internationally renowned conferences.
“I’ve seen HIV from so many perspectives – it makes sense that I am now working in this area, determined to generate new information that might be used to design a cost-effective and highly effective vaccine against HIV. I join other scientists in accepting that a vaccine against HIV is probably our best opportunity to eradicate HIV infections and secure an HIV/AIDS-free generation.”
Working in Professor Eric Gowan’s Virology group at the BHI, Khamis finished his PhD in June this year and was hopeful to continue to work in this area of research, one that is so close to his heart. Now, he has been able to fulfill that dream.
“I look at myself 30 years from now as someone who can influence HIV management policy, not only managing the pandemic but also caring for people and communities who are affected,” said Khamis.
“I see myself as a point of reference in HIV vaccine development and research and obviously an advocate for better HIV care. I want a world free of HIV. I want to help people all over the world.”
Going into his PhD with the goal of creating one vaccine, a number of troubleshooting difficulties led to Khamis needing to create another vaccine to generate data for his PhD. Both have now been proven to show promising results. He is very pleased with what he has been able to achieve and has high hopes for his research future.
“It’s incredibly hard with the kind of work we do to really achieve what we want in three years of a PhD candidature and I have encountered a number of ups and downs along the way,” Khamis said.
“It’s been a very hard and interesting process, starting right at the beginning when I needed to create a live genetically modified virus that I wanted to use in my first vaccine – a virus that is so notoriously hard to make that nobody else in the world had ever made an attempt.
“Despite all the difficulties, in the past three years I should say I’ve managed to generate two vaccines (a live virus vaccine and a DNA vaccine) and the data is actually very good – although these vaccines show efficacy when used individually, we have noted that a combination of both vaccines provides superior protection in our testing. We are now currently comparing the protective efficacies of these two vaccines.”
Following the completion of his PhD, Khamis has big dreams to continue working in an area where he believes he truly can make a difference.
“For now, the question is how, where and what with? I’ve been so grateful to receive financial support from THRF during my PhD candidature. It is unfortunate that funding for HIV vaccine research is dwindling globally. Many promising researchers like me face an uncertain future. However, the pursuit to realise my research ambitions remains unrelenting,” he said.
“I hope I can secure another opportunity to support my future research activities.”
In November 2016, Khamis has relocated to the United States to continue his important research. He is incredibly grateful for the support he has received from the THRF community and we will keep in touch with him to keep you up to date on his research!
Do you want to support HIV vaccine research?