Africa Special with Karen Hogg (University of York) and Margaret Mbuchi (Kenya Medical Research Institute)

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Welcome to Flow Stars, candid conversations between Dr.

Peter O'Toole and the big hitters of flow cytometry,

brought to you by Beckman Coulter at Bite-size bio.

Welcome to this special episode of Flow Stars.

I'm joined by Margaret Mucci from the Kenya Medical Research Institute and from

Kevin Hogg from University of Pure.

And we are gonna discuss flow cytometry in Africa.

So join us to hear the major logistical challenges that come with shipping

cytometers and reagents to Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

I think the biggest challenge could probably describe as, um,


transportation of instruments and reagents then to the

sites. Now, that was partly due to covid,

but also the restrictions and the processes

and the licenses and the certifications for each of the four countries

to actually ship the cytometers and the reagents was different.

The difficulties of recruiting study participants in areas of civil


The study sites where we are doing, uh, the recruitment,

uh, study participants are in a,

you know, in a zone where we, as I said, that the, the,

these know nurses in our settings affect them, you know, nomadic communities.

So sometimes you have two communities that are always fighting and cut

rustling or, you know, and it can be done very, very fasting.

So we have had some curfews

And learn how you can get involved and donate secondhand instruments.

So if you have a look at the ISAC website,

then there are details there for the chairpersons or the information. Um,

so you can, can look at that and then email the, the chairs of the groups.

If you've got, um,

comments or you've got instruments that you think would be suitable for

donations, then, you know,

get in touch and we can send you details as to what information's needed.

All in this episode of Flow Stars. Hi,

I'm Peter Oul from University of York,

and welcome to this episode of Flow Stars. This is slightly different. This is,


an Africa special and looking at flow cytometry and some of the initiatives and

challenges and exciting developments happening at the moment.

And today I'm joined by Margaret Bui from the Kenya Medical

Research Institute, Kenie from Kenya, and Karen Hog,

who actually works with me back at the University of York,

but has a heavy involvement with Margaret and others across East Africa.

Welcome to you both, Margaret, firstly, how are you?

I'm very fine, Peter. Thank you.

It's really nice to see you again. And Karen, how are you today?

You are just back off your holidays. How are you Karen?

Yeah, I am. Very good, thank you.

It was nice to have a couple of weeks off and to get back to things and,

and move the, the work along. So, yeah. Good. Thank you.

So I, I'm going to kick off 'cause actually Margaret,

I think it's been a little while since we've spoken. Uh, how, how is,

so we obviously share a few flow cytometers.

How is your flow cytometer behaving? Is everything good?

Yeah, I think, uh, uh,

we have had a good time with our flow cytometer and we are running our samples.

Well, we haven't had any major issues and whenever we have had any issues,

we have, uh, our team from, uh,

the representatives of Beckman Coulter come quickly to sort it out for us.

But that has been minimal. Otherwise our, our machine is working well.

Uh, that's really good to hear. 'cause I think, so for the listeners, uh,

one of the reasons that Kevin and I got involved with Margaret and others

was through a, a grant, uh, E-D-C-T-P. So European funded grants, uh,

with Paul K at York, leading York's end,

and with Margaret and others from across Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

And we all bought the same cytometers at the same time.

And that was quite a challenging,

picking not necessarily the best cytometer in the world,

but what we thought would be, uh, uh,

the best cytometer to be delivered across different labs and be reliable and

well serviced and everything else. And Margaret, it sounds like,

it looks like our choice that we all chose was a good one.

Yes. I think, uh, you, the choice was a good one,

Which is a relief 'cause it's a lot of money when you are buying five at once.

And Karen, you, you,

you know better than I do because actually you kind of project manage this

locally on the cytometer side, uh,

from York and you have a lot of interaction with all of those hubs nodes,

uh, across East Africa. So how, how, how,

how do you manage that?

Well, that, that's managed across a few different platforms.

So we use Zoom meetings to have, um,

sort of team weekly meetings if people can dial in or use their internet

to, to meet,

so we can discuss what's going on with the project and how the cytometers are,

and share tips, tricks, experiences of training. So that's, that's one method.

Um, we also use WhatsApp as well, um,

for little quick communications or sharing videos, which, um,

it's been really useful videos, how to change tubings,

change filters and do some of the maintenance tasks on the cytometers.

Um, and so that's been really good. Um,

and I've been at RI as well to do some training and Margaret and Jane

and the team very kindly hosted me out there while I trained a new member of

staff. So it's been a real mix.

And actually I should point out, uh,

later on we'll concentrate on some of the difficulties, uh,

technological difficulties are hitting us today as well as I speak.

So actually those listening won't have a clue. There's a problem. Uh,

those watching on YouTube will realize that Margaret's video, uh,

we've had to turn off for today's recording to make sure we get good audio as

well. So actually Margaret, I'm gonna come to you. Let's go back in time. Uh,

where did you do your, and where did you do actually,

when did you realize you wanted to be a scientist? Let's start there.

Oh, my, oh, that's an interesting one.

I actually remember exactly how long ago or at what stage

in my schooling, if I may put it that way.

I must have been 14, 15 years old.

And I knew I wanted to do medical research even though I didn't

fully understand what that entailed. But I sort of understood, uh,

that it's, um,

an area that would help me to understand how

our bodies work, uh, diseases. And it's funny that,

uh, because I remember our ministry of,

we, we would have people come to our schools. I was in secondary school then,

and they would bring us forms and ask us to fill in what we

wanted to become.

And I truly believed what I put in there is what I would become,

and that's what I am today. I knew it was related to pharmacy and medicine,

but I also knew it was neither of the two.

And so I pursued that path and that's what I'm, I'm doing now. Yeah,

Right. To have, to have that vision and to see it through, uh,

it is not all that common actually. Uh, especially as at the young age of 14,

uh, although obviously some even younger See that, that vision through.

And Karen, what about you? What, where did you,

when did you first realize you wanted to become a scientist?

So I think for me,

that was when I was doing my undergraduate project work in my, um,

third year. And I was doing a parasitology project, um,

and module with, um, the, then Dr. Hillary Hurd at Keel University.

And, um,

just got completely hooked on parasitology and particularly tropical

parasitology looking at malaria and how it affected the mosquitoes actually,

rather than the, uh, rather than the person. Um, and, um,

so got hooked in that way and then went on to do a master's at the Liverpool

School of Tropical Medicine and just became more and more convinced that that

was an area that I wanted to, to work in. So, uh,

Margaret, so you were at school when you decided science was your way forward.

So where'd you do your first degree?

I did my first degree at the University of Nairobi,

and I did a degree in Zoology,

so that's why I did my first degree.

And then I, I know you came over to the uk. When did you come over? What,

what years were you, uh, working studying in the uk?

So what happened is after my first degree,

I did join RY as an assistant research officer,

and I still had aspirations to do my master's.

And I specifically wanted to do my master's in the uk and I had an

opportunity to come and do my master's degree at the University of

Alford, where I did, uh,

a master's in biochemical. Oh, is it,

um, bio, bio, I'm forgetting what,

what master's degree I did, but I did my, my,

my master's degree at the University of Southford in Greater Manchester. Yeah,

Yeah. Well, I, I have to ask,

there's two questions that just immediately spring to mind. Firstly,

why, why come to the uk? Secondly, yes.


Answer that one first. Why, why come to the, why do UK to study?

I don't know. I just, uh, uh, to be honest,

I don't know how to answer that question, but I just believed that, uh,

I would get a better,

better exposure than I would otherwise if I had done my master's here in

Kenya. Um, I don't know whether that is was true then,

but it's just a desire that I had and I was really

focused on coming to the UK to do my masters.

Right. I'm, I'm sure it probably did have a benefit, uh,

at that point.

Do you think coming to the going overseas is still as important

as it was then for pe for students coming through? Do you think you'd,

would you recommend 'em going overseas to do further studies or would you say,

no, no, no, stay in Nairobi, stay Kenya, everything, you know, we've moved on,

things are moving forward. What, what's your feelings about that?

I think, um, it depends on, uh,

on several things, especially at master's degree level.

So for example, if you,

if a person has done their first degree and they are engaged, they're employed,

they're working in an institution like Camry and they're working, uh,

within a team that is well networked, then I,

they, they, you know, there,

it may not be necessary to go out there fully because you get the exposure

that then prepares one for the,

whether here we are speaking of research,

but I still think you get a better exposure when you

go out of Kenya to do, um,

you know, any type of degree.

And especially from master's degree level onwards.

Well, I, I,

I will support that because actually I think regardless of which country

you are in, uh, there's always something to be gained by moving institutes,

moving countries, working in a different culture. And, and that's,

so actually from UK students postgraduate staff going overseas,

a lot of those gone to succeed at quite a, an accelerated rate in,

in many cases.

But it's not essential and it's good to hear it's not essential either, uh,

with yourselves. Karen, have you, oh no,

I'm gonna come back to one more question. Margaret, you chose Alford Manchester.

Now, whilst we are recording this,

I'm looking out my window at a relatively dry place in the country called York.

And today it looks like Manchester weather, it's raining.

How did you cope with the,

the changing climate coming from Nairobi into Manchester on the

west side of the country,

that does get a little bit more rain than many other parts of the country?

Well, incidentally, uh, just before I, I went to, for, to do my master's degree,

I had gone out in the field in a very remote place in Kenya where

we have the highest prevalence of hi hydrated disease in humans.

And while on that trip, uh,

we were joined by a British woman who was an artist,

I believe her name was somebody, and I asked her,

so what should I expect in Manchester? And then she said,

it's Manchester is rain, rain, rain, and then winter.

So I was kind of prepared in that way,

but it was not too much of a price to pay for me because I was very,

very passionate about going to the UK for the first time. So,

and I was born and raised in a,

one of the coldest areas in my country. So it, and, you know,

also rainy. So, but I think the excitement, um,

I didn't think it was too much of a price to pay, but it was exciting,

but a bit cold, uh, you know,

both the weather and just being there for the first time. So,

but I think I was too excited that, that,

that was more inconvenience for me.

I, I, I guess I,

I will carry out that actually we hold our to the wrong microscopical society

whole, their big meeting every other year in Manchester.

And all my views and memories of Manchester are very sunny and warm days.

So it's just more venue compared to others.

But actually I really got a very soft, very fun,

soft spot for Manchester itself. Uh, how, how did you find the,

the cultural change coming and studying in the UK with around UK

students? Uh, was that, was that, uh,

a probably a bigger challenge,

the cultural change in seeing some students and their behaviors sometimes, uh,

and how they, how things are different compared to,

is that a bigger challenge than the weather, the climate change fitting in?

Yeah, it, it, it was, uh, I think it was a bigger challenge,

and yet I don't remember feeling too overwhelmed because I

think I had done my due diligence. I had kind of prepared myself,

and then there happened to be quite a number of, um,

other Africans students from Africa and in fact a good number from Kenya.

And we sort of were all connected, but, uh,

the cultural change was obviously something that I needed to deal with.

Uh, anyway, I was only there for one year, so it was not too bad.

Yeah, I, I'm thinking actually when I did my undergraduate there,

quite a lot of Kenyan, uh, in the same cohorts from Kenya.

And actually I did, I maybe the culture, maybe I was so young,

I didn't notice cultural differences because we were all in the same cohort.

So I don't think it made a big difference to the students at that point.

We were, it was all new to us all, uh, at that point. Karen,

you've been over to Kenya.

You've been over to Kenya and visited Margaret and Spence two,

three weeks over there.

How did you find the cultural change going the opposite way?

So, well, I spent a week there in December last year, and, um,

it was, it was great actually, again,

a little bit of homework and asking questions before, uh, before travel.

Certainly certainly paid off. And, uh,

Margaret and the team at Kenry were, uh,

very helpful in making sure that the accommodation in the hotel was in the,

was in the right area. And so that wouldn't have trouble, um,

getting across town. Um,

although I did use an Uber for the first time, first in, in Kenry,

I'd never done Uber Transport before. So it was quite, uh,

quite strange doing that for the first time, uh, to get across,

across the city to, um, arrive, um, at the research institute.

But the taxi driver didn't know quite where to go and missed the

turning for, um, for, for RI so it didn't turn off left.

So then I got a, a,

a bit of an extended tour of the area around the research institute.

So certainly got to see, um, a lot more of the, the, um,

of the city than the they intended to that morning.

And Karen, I, I know from working with you,

you have a passion for working and supporting Africa as a whole.

And where did that passion come from? I don't I've ever asked you this, where,

where did that passion come from?

'cause you are always on at me to go over to Africa, uh,

and support different research groups over there.

And that's not just supporting,

that's 'cause you are interested in want to be visit the countries.

So where's your passion come from?

So I think that came from, um, again, when I was doing my, um,

undergraduate degree, my boyfriend at the time who's now my husband,


went over to Tanzania for six months and went out to join for

a month and saw how the research, uh, Mozer operated there.

That's an MRC research institute.

And I was just absolutely bowled over by what they were doing with the limited

resources and the expertise and the knowledge and the way that they pinned

things together to, you know,

get as much as they can out of the time and the research activities they had.

So it was from doing that and, you know,

going round the different villages and collecting the mosquitoes from the huts

in the morning to then do the testings and, uh, you know, helping,

helping with that where I could, um, really made me think that, you know,

there was a lot of work to be done with neglected tropical diseases,

but also it's just the,

the people and the spirit and the character and the want to do more and

that there was a lot more to be done. Um, so yeah,

really came from that experience.

And then from doing the masters and seeing the work

that was being done and yeah,

how much more was needed to be done to move treatment diagnosis as well

as basic biology on,

Have you, uh, ever been tempted to move over to Africa, uh,

obviously when you retired, because you're not leaving me,

but would you ever be tempted to go and live over there?

No, I don't think so. I think what, what I could see was that I wanted to,

I don't know,

improve the capacity of the people that were doing the research

over there to do the research themselves and to get the

expertise and the reagents and the equipment to be able to then, you know,

move things forward for, for their own research.

So I think that's quite a,

a driver in my mind is that it's nice to help and support, but you know,

the researchers that are over there from certainly from from Berri are excellent

and brilliant in their own way.

And so capacity building and facilitating their enhancement

is probably more of interest to me.

So Margaret, coming back to you,

Karen raised two points that when Karen visited I,

I guess over 20 years ago, that, that's for sure. Uh,

when Karen visited and saw what the science has been done on limited resources,


would you say that resources are still so limited or how are things looking,

uh, within Kenya? Are,

are there far more in the way of technology support and infrastructure now in


Or is it still on a more limited basis compared to most western European

countries and North America? Erica,

First of all, to, for me to answer that question, I would need to say that,

uh, okay,

the resources are much better today than they were

20 years ago. However, uh,

most of the research that we are doing in our settings in Kenya,

and I believe in the, in the region, um,

most of it, um, is in partnership with,

uh, you know, groups or, you know, institutions from the Western world.

So in that context, and depending on the funding on, uh, you know,

that is based, you know, uh,

the capacity is based on how well funded projects

are. Uh, but in terms of funding from,

uh, the government, if I speak for, you know, from my experience in Kenya,

there's not that much funding for research coming directly

from, you know, say for example, the ex checker Yeah.

To do research. There's funding to, you know,

to pay and to, you know, to,

to manage the research institutions.

But in terms of hard cash currency to do research,

uh, that may not have changed much.

Although certainly in our situation,

our government has been increasing the, you know, funding for research. And I,

um, yeah. So I think that's what I can say. But otherwise,

it's important to note that majority of the research going on in the region

is often in partnership with, uh, you know,

institutions from the Western world.

And is that a good thing?

Uh, this is my personal opinion. I,

I'm glad I'm speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for em. Of course. My,

my opinion is that it's,

we really should own our problem and our government,

and as a people in a community, we should, you know,

allocate more funding to solve our own problems.

Because in all honesty,

when funding is based on or driven by outsiders,

then it may not be, you know,

addressing our most important and immediate needs.

Yeah, it would, it would be nice if there was a, you know,

a Kenyan research council that would have a call for

proposals and then the researchers and the clinicians

or such, like, could put a proposal in,

they could be reviewed and then funded from government money, um,

accordingly. Um, I think that would be a, a nice, a nice aim.

Does that happen for any area of research, Margaret?

Oh, well, we do have, uh, we have a forum, uh, where we,

we get funding, uh, you know, based on, you know,

calls for, you know, for applications.

But that's only like a,

a drop in the bucket compared to the very sizable research

going on in, in Kenya, for example,

most of which is funded by, um, you know,

it's driven by and funded by, you know,

individuals from the United States or uk. And,

and I think especially we have a strong, big presence of the us uh,

here, but we do have, um,

some funding that comes, um, that people can apply for.

But, um,

as general as some of the funding and grants can be,

it's only at, you know,

a drop in the bucket when you compare to the budget that are, you know,

being run here from NIH or Welcome Trust or

yeah. You know, or, uh, E-D-C-G-P and, and, and, and, you know,

other funding agencies and bodies.

I, I, if I can turn this on its head a little bit, I, I just,

just thinking out loud with this, Margaret, Karen,

I actually think maybe I, I think yes,

more national funding in any country is always, especially 'cause we scientists,

we want to see funding in our directions. We can see what we can do with it.

So we, we all want more.

One of the beauties is a lot of the UK funding is for UK researchers.

Uh, obviously there are some funds now that enable collaborations overseas,

but increasingly, you know, science is without borders.

And, you know,

collaborations are encouraged to work with the best people in the best places,

in the best local, local, local places that are suited. And actually,

this, this funding that we are talking about, which is, in our case, the,

the European,

the E-D-C-T-P funding and your national welcome and trust and

NIH funding. The great thing is it means that we are all working together,

and actually uk a lot of UK scientists work in the UK

with UK scientists and don't branch out these funding streams that are there.

Uh, which I guess for us are maybe the minority funding,

but it's some of the most successful funding is ones where you are

collaborating with the best position people overseas as well,

such as with yourselves. Uh, so there are, it's kind of,

you're coming from another side of,

of a problem of just getting that global scientific economy going.

Uh, I guess maybe it's ownership of the money and, and who can lead and stuff.

Maybe that's a perceived problem. Maybe Margaret, I don't know.

Um, I'm, I'm not sure I get the question.

No. So maybe it's, uh, you know,

who goes looking for collaborators?

Is it the western world looking into Africa, looking for collaborators,

or is it collaborate, or is it the groups that the academic groups in, uh,

Africa, in, in Kenya, in your case,

looking for collaborators into Europe and into America? Which,

which way are the partnerships led quite often? Or is it a mix of both?

I think it's a mix of both, but, uh,

most of the times we have, uh, you know,

the Western, um, you know,

researchers from the western parts of the world looking for partnerships

in Africa, um, uh, you know,

I think that's because for example, you'll find that, uh,

um, you have a funding agency, uh,

that insists that, uh,

for them to fund research in Kenya, you must have,

uh, a, the lead persons

coming from the country where the money is originating from.

I put a case example is, um, you know,

like grants and funding that, uh, we get from Japan.

Uh, so you get some funding,

but most majority of the organizations there are funding coming in.

They insist that because the,

the funding is derived from Japanese taxpayers,

then you must of necessity have a Japanese as part

of the lead team, uh, then that is partnering with the Kenyan team.

Yeah, no, I, I, I, I can see that. And I think I, I think, you know,

if Kenya were to liberate more funds for research,

you'd certainly want to make sure that Kenyan academics were benefiting at home

as well as collaborating outside of Kenya. Uh, so I, I,

I, I guess I can see why that would have to be the case itself.

Um, I, I, I'm gonna just change tack for the moment.

What are the, uh,

which conferences do you get to go to, uh, Margaret? Actually, no, Karen, first.

Karen, what conferences have you attended in the last 12 months or so?

So for, um, international conferences, the, um, uh,

cyto conference that was in Montreal this year,

so that's ISACs flow cytometry or cytometry based yearly

meeting. So I attended, attended that. Um,

and then we have our national flow cytometry UK meetings as well

that I've attended. And, um,

I've also attended the Royal Microscopical Society, the RMS one day,

um, AGM and then the, um, conference in Manchester this year as well.

So, um, a good, uh, selection of flow cytometry and microscopy,

um, meetings and the facilities meeting as well for flow cytometry.

So quite a number across different disciplines that help me do my job here at


What's your favorite meeting, Karen?

Ooh, so I'd have to have two. So internationally for, for abroad,

that would be cyto,

that's an amazing meeting of lots of different cytometrists from across the

globe. And it is nice to see cyto friends, um, and, uh,

catch up with them as to what equipment, what techniques,

what reagents they're using. Um, but for the, um, national meeting,

it'll have to be the facilities meeting that's held, um, in January. I,

I really like that meeting, um,

for more of the facilities management and cytometry

usage equipment,

how to manage people and employers and vendors and

all such things as that.

So it's not MMC Karen? No,

No. mmc

I'm joking. I'm joking. Karen, you're an impossible position to,

to come back at it. Uh, uh, Margaret,

same question to you. Have you been to many conferences,

congresses in the last year or two?

Uh, I haven't been to, actually, I haven't been to any con well,

I have been to a conference, the LEAP, uh, platform. Um,

so I haven't been to many conferences since, uh,

COVID since 2020. So, but I have been to, uh,

we, we, we at Camry have an annual conference that comes up in, in February,

uh, cam Camry annual Scientific, uh,

con and Health Conference. It's very vibrant. It happened,

it happens every, every February. So I have been in that one every year.

The, I mean, for as long as I can remember,

whenever we have had that conference. Um, I, I, we also have, uh,

the other conference that I have loved attending is the Wild Leash Conference.

Unfortunately, I didn't attend the last one.

The last one I attended was in Orlando, in Spain. And then,

um, I've attended, uh, the A-S-P-M-H,

um, I think the last one I attended was in 29.

This, I think is the first time that we've mentioned, uh, leash, leash, ssis,

uh, which a lot of the research that Karen, Margaret,

you're both working on, uh, from York side led by Paul Kay. Uh,

so for those listening that aren't familiar with leash ssis,

who would like to describe, uh, what leishmaniasis is for the,

for the audience that may not know what, what we're talking about?

I think, think Margaret would be best placed to describe that as it's, uh,

endemic in her host national country.

So Margaret over to you to describe what leash is, I think.

Okay. So leash manasis is a paracetic disease.

It's actually one of the most neglected tropical diseases. Um,

and it is caused by, uh, uh, the Le Mania parasite,

which is, uh, uh,

a tisone that is transmitted by through the bite of, uh, sun fly.

And, um, so, um, we,

we have Le Manis can we have different types of Le Manis.

So we have the visualized Le Manis and, uh,

which is what is common in, in our East Africa region. Um,

and, uh,

we also have the cutaneous form of leishmaniasis where the parasite,

the recites, you know, uh, does not visualize,

but stays on the skin. Um,

we also have other forms of, you know, skin, uh,

based li nurses, uh, like causal form of the disease,

uh, that we, we don't have it ourselves here in the East Africa region,

but it's common in the Latin Americas. Um,

in our settings here, we have, uh, the visceral nurses,

which is, which,

which is actually fatal and affects the poorest

of the poor. And, you know, a setting it's emic in the,

in areas where we have nomadic, uh, communities that travel a lot,

uh, with their cattle and, uh, if untreated, uh,

the visceral nurses is actually fatal. Um, and

we, the, the work we are doing with current is really, you know,

based on our desire to understand the immunological processes that

align the pathogenesis of human visceral analysis.

Um, I, I don't know whether that is sufficient to answer the question of what,

uh, Lemanis is

Actually, I think that's perfect. Margaret. I asked a really good explanation,

and what we didn't put on there is the numbers of the number of people that have

been infected or infected with leishmaniasis,

making it one of the world's biggest diseases out there. I,

I think maybe the third largest, biggest disease globally.

I can't remember the exact numbers, but it, it is really, really big and,

and does have, but as we heard can be deadly. Uh, which is why the research is,

is so fundamentally important, uh, to, to be undertaken.

Now our our side is flow cytometry, so why is it, I'm gonna ask Karen this one,

'cause Margaret's just asked that one.

Why is the flow cytometer so important to this research?

So the reason why we've chosen to buy the flow cytometers and put them in

situ in the four countries involved in the project is so that we can monitor the

immune responses of the participants in the study in,

in real time and look at their immune responses. Um,


pre and post-treatment for visceral le menis for leis, um,

Donovan. And, um, this will help us see how their,

um, immune profile changes after, um, treatment.

Um, often the people that have got parasite, their,

their immune responses are quite different to a healthy person.

And to see how it shifts after, after treatment,

the treatment takes quite a while and the drugs are, um,

quite harsh on the body. Um, so the, the participants need to be,

or the patients need to be hospitalized during, during treatment. Um,

and so it's thought that maybe in the different sites,

the immune profile will be different in Kenya to,

let's say Ethiopia or, or Sudan. Um, and,

um, so to really unpick some of that with, uh, got four panels,

um, to look at different parts of the immune responses and, um,

see if there are differences that can be observed that can help understand the

cell biology and immunology better.

Thank you, Karen.

And part of thinking of keeping on the technology side of this,

just having a flow cytometer or any bit of technology to underpin the research

question. Well,

whatever aspect you're looking at isn't as simple as just putting the

technology into the country. Uh, you need training,

but you need engineers to be able to put it in the country,

set it up and support it. And Margaret, you mentioned earlier, uh, in our cases,

Beckman Coulter who have supported it, uh, very efficiently,

but also Beckman Coulter and some of the other big companies,

not just cytometer companies, do invest a lot of money,

time and effort in supporting research, uh,

in African countries such as Kenya.

And I presume Coulter have been a good partner in this case, Margaret?

Yes. Um, I, I think they have been, um,

we have been able to use our,

our cytometer well con continual continuously

since we started our project without having any major issues.

And, um, yeah, yeah, so, and whenever, as I said earlier,

whenever we have had an issue or two, like misalignment of the laser

ter, uh, we were able to call in a a, a Beckman called,

uh, engineer came and sorted out at that shop notice.

So we haven't had any major issues. Um,

And likewise with ours, which is a parallel system, a sister sister,

a sister system, that's hard to say, sister system,

I'm not gonna say it too fast. Uh, and we've had very few problems with ours,

which is good. Uh, but Karen,

that's part of the logistics. Uh,

can I ask you what the most difficult logistic was of getting the

cytometers distributed? 'cause they all came to York to start with.

Actually I have a picture of this, Margaret, I hope you can see your screen.

This was actually when all the cytometers came to York first,

not because they were purchased in the uk, that wasn't the case.

These were going to Kenya or to Sudan,

or to Uganda or to Ethiopia.

But we wanted them all on site so everyone could be trained on their cytometer.

And we,

we could all check that all cytometers were equal before they then got

distributed. And so that gave us sort of a level of insurance. But,

so here we are all at York being trained,

and actually I have this picture which we'll post up as well. Uh, so Margaret,

you are also in this picture just here.

That's me.

And we've got Karen, obviously you can see,

well actually Karen's looking the other way. Uh,

Paul k who's from York was a project lead from York,

side side and others from the consortium. So Karen,

what was the biggest challenge?


so I think the biggest challenge could probably describe as, um,


transportation of instruments and reagents then to

the sites. Now that was partly due to covid,

but also the restrictions and the processes

and the licenses and the certifications for each of the four countries to

actually ship the cytometers and the reagents was different. And,


it was really difficult to get a tick or a checklist for each

country to decide what needed to happen. Um, and Covid also got in the way,

which meant it was very hard to get hold of people to tell you what you needed.

But also it seemed to be that sometimes people said, yes,

you definitely need this. It's absolutely important you get this.

And then we'd get all of that, and then somebody say, oh no,

you didn't need that one and you now need this as well.

And this caused delay after delay after delay.

And it got very difficult and very frustrating.

And so they, they were the biggest cons. And I knew you'd pick out the,

the export import difficulties,

challenges that, that lay ahead, that we hadn't fully foreseen. No one had,

no one had. We, we,

we looked into it before we started this and we thought we'd learned

everything and heard what everyone was advising.

But ultimately things change and it makes more difficult and thinking of

things changing the whole project. Margaret, uh,

has obviously taken quite a big hit recently with the, uh, changes in Sudan,

uh, and the difficulty it's made engaging with some of the samples.

'cause they had a lot of, uh, the samples for the consortium.

That's obviously had a big hit as well. I dunno, Margaret,

has that affected you much in Kenya for this,

the research side itself of the project?

Um, we, we, fortunately we

at the beginning of, uh, this project actually even during the,

you know,

the development of the grant application where when we were

doing risk assessment, I remember clearly thinking,

uh, that, uh, we would be having an,

an election during the time of this project.

And that can sometimes in our settings, can you,

sometimes you never know what will happen. Uh, uh,

but luckily we had our election and it was peaceful.

We also had some, uh,

security issues because the, the study sites where we are doing,

uh, the recruitment, uh,

study participants are in a,

you know, in a zone where we, as I said, the, the relation,

the this analysis in our settings affects, you know,

nomadic communities.

So sometimes you have two communities that are always fighting and, you know,

cattle rustling where, you know, and it can be turned very, very nasty.

So we have had some curfews, uh,

in instituted by the, the leadership in those counties. Uh,

but somehow we, we have managed to go to work around it.

I can't say that it has, you know,

affected us too much in terms of getting our enrollments

and things like that. So we haven't had, uh,

major national security issues,

but we have had regional security issues that occurred within the

areas of where we have the study on, you know, going ongoing.

It, it's odd, isn't it, to think that science is our key problem,

that that's what we're all here to help solve and move forward with.

And yet this, this project over the last three,

four years has been beset by Covid being

quite a big impact of how we could all work together.

I would say Covid has possibly helped in an odd way,

because the use of Zoom and networking,

everything developed so fast that actually being able to do remote support and

the groups all meeting on a weekly basis talking about their problems,

looking at the flow data live on their cytometers, uh, has been really useful.

So maybe there are some benefits that we, we forget about, but the negatives,

of course, are not being able to, to move between the countries as easily.

And Kevin,

you were flying out to Sudan and then got canceled at the last minute?

Yeah, so we were, we were due, well, Margaret was, uh, expected to,

to come as well. We were gonna have our, um, AGM meeting for the project, um,

in Hato. Um, and, uh, that was booked,

scheduled to happen. I think it was, well,

three weeks or four weeks, um, after the,

the, the war broke out. So, um, yeah, so that has had a,

an impact on our ability to meet certainly this year. 'cause obviously we, we,

we didn't go, um, and you know,

we we're not sure what's happening with the flow cytometry at the minute in

Hato. Um,

we're not sure whether it will still be in a fit state or whether the computer

will still be attached. Um, the hope is that it,

it will be okay and it will be moved out of Harum to the field site.

So some of the research capabilities can still continue, but that's, you know,

up for, for, for discussion and negotiation in, in, in time on,

and not really for now, fortunately, all the researchers are, are okay,

they're safe, which is the, the main thing. Um, but it's,

it's had a big knock to, to the, to the project.

Well, I think credit to everyone involved though, that, you know, this is,

there's a large amount of funding. It was a very, you know,

it's a big project with a number of groups, uh,

across the world as part of this collaboration.

And despite these negative impacts that I think everyone's found

ways to work around it and to keep moving forward and to carry on delivering

impact, uh, for the funds, despite covid, despite,

uh, the problems that Sudan are currently, uh, facing at the moment.

I think that's a real credit to all the scientists involved in these projects.

And this is just one project we talk about.

There's lots of projects out there that will be doing exactly the same.

And thank goodness that the funders still support the funding because research

does need to go on. And I think that's been really useful. Kevin,

I'm gonna stick with you for a moment, please. Uh,

so obviously you are chair of the flow cytometry section for the Royal

Microscopical Society, but you are also a committee member at Isaac,

uh, and their, one of their working groups or task forces, uh, which is,

well, Kevin, you tell me about the task force that you are involved with.

So the, the, the task force has the,

the name instruments for science or the acronym of I for F.

And so the, the, the,

the thought behind this is instruments that are still fit for purpose,

but surplus to requirements at an institution can then be

donated to, um, a site that needs a flow cytometry.

And they don't currently have one and they don't have the means to purchase one

either to get them started with flow cytometry,

provide an instruments that is, again, I reiterate fit for surface. It is,

it is not a dead duck. Um,

and provide the maintenance and the startup pack in

terms of reagents and expertise and training to, to get the,

the work going,

and then to support that from the live education committee of

ISAC as well, so that the training can happen maybe initially virtually,

but then in person to make sure that the equipment can be used full

capacity at the site. And this has worked really well, um, with, uh,

Asha and also Bill Telford supported also by RAF and

Alfonso, um,

to move projects on when there is an absolute need for flow cytometry

to happen at that site, but there's not the funds to get it started.

And the aim would be nicely to then capacity build through grants or

collaboration, um, support to then, you know, maybe further on,

get a new cytometer or different reagents to then, um,

have increased capacity and self-sustaining use of a cytometer

in the, in the future. So that's the brief aim for it.

And I think Karen, I, I think it was really important, you,

you emphasize it wasn't a dead duck. I,

the collaboration we have here took a different approach in putting new

equipment in, which has a, a long lifetime then and can be supported to have a,

a legacy going beyond the grant period itself. In this case,

this is bringing things in much cheaper,

but you've talked to beyond telfa and co instruments that can still be

supported, even though in Europe you wouldn't,

it's not so easy to support them and keep them going,

but there are charitable efforts to keep them

going in Africa and, uh,

bill Town Ford flies over and helps go round different cytometers fixing them.

Yeah, he's got his workshop that he makes parts for and everything else, uh,

which, which makes it harder, but it does keep them going, so we,

it's not going for scrap at that point. Uh, actually, so actually a,

a shout out to us at York, and I'm gonna say is, you know,

we have our confocal microscope going out to Nigeria, uh,

actually shipped out this morning, uh,

which which is great news because we actually had secondary parts that we could

send with it, and we knew they had some parts also.

So we know it's gonna have a lifetime, not just a one or two years,

but they should see at least five years worth of active use, uh,

which is I think a good thing. And Margaret,

what's your thoughts on accepting those, you know,

end of life but not end of life systems? What was the term you used?

Karen Instruments

Fit for purpose, I think I said, but, but instruments for science.

Yes. What are your thoughts about those types of equipment versus new Margaret?

Uh, do you mean, um,

equipment that are coming outside of, uh, an ongoing project?

Yeah, and so Karen, you describe how the instruments would,

would be coming in and

So, so the,

the institution would put a request in for a, you know,

flow cytometer and maybe some peripheral equipment, maybe a centrifuge as well,

or, you know, whirly mixer. And then would be, um,

for a particular project to get them started, or even a series of projects even,

um, so that it'd be used to good capacity.

And then there would be, um, funds raised or funds, um,

donated to then get the equipment and some training so it can be used

properly to the institution or that can be done independently. Or, um,

in the past we've used seeding labs, which is a company, um,

from works out the,

out the states that helps also facilitate places get kitted

up with donated, but fit for purpose equipment.

So these would be like, for example,

as calibers and calibers are probably one of the most donated systems into that

fax calibers. Uh,

so nothing like what you have Margaret with the, the CytoFLEX uh,

lx, which is a high-end system, but are those type of instruments still useful?

You know, would you, is there a culture of wanting these instruments or is it,

well, these are secondary instruments. I,

I want the latest to be able to push my search research to limits. What,

what's the balance here?

I, I think for me, uh, that would be a very good, uh, uh,

you know, sometimes you,

you may want to apply for funding or there may be some funding available

that is enough to do certain research

work if only you had a certain equipment

to do A, B, C, D. And sometimes that equipment doesn't need to be the,

you know, bit of the art. It's maybe just some basic, basic,

you know, equipment. So I think, uh,

I think this is a novel idea. Uh, and I,

I, I think I would welcome that very much.

So I think that's, I think, I think, you know, researchers can,

and different labs certainly within our settings can actually benefit

a lot from such a, um, a, a venture. Uh,

sometimes you may have a lab that has the fancy equipment,

but may may be in need of just the basic equipment and

equipment to do really basic stuff that are continuously being, you know,

that you need to do, uh, even in a routine lab. So

I think it, it's, I welcome that kind of an idea.

Uh, and of course it has to, there has to be a balance between the,

you know, um, the situation where you, you know,

maybe a certain recipient institution or country may,

they want to query that whole arrangement so that it doesn't seem like, uh,

then, uh, a, a lab here in Camry,

you know, sorry to use this word, becomes almost like a,

a you allow me to use this.

Maybe I don't fully understand that rule arrangement,

but as long as it's not you getting an equipment that you, you,

you know, has a long usage time,

and therefore it's not like you are getting rid of, you know,

you want to get rid of dispose of an equipment and you know that you don't want

in your space. But otherwise, I think it's a very welcome idea. Uh,

very, very welcome. Very welcome.

So, so Margaret, what you don't want to be is a dumping ground. I think it

Be, I was avoiding the use of that, that word,

I'll say it for you so we don't have to edit it out. It comes outta my mouth.

So it shouldn't be a dumping ground,

it has to be instruments that have longevity Yes, can enable support.

And sometimes it is the more, not the top end systems,

but the workhorse systems that do have better l longevity compared to the,

to some of the very niche systems. Karen, you were gonna say something? Sorry.


Yeah, I was just gonna continue on from that. And a discussion that's been had,

um, quite actively at the minute is, um,

in terms of the training for use of let's say a flow

cytometer, um, and which language that should be given in. And,

um, so Margaret, it it, do you have a, a, a comment to make on,


use of training material in a native language or

whether, um, English stroke American, um, is, is acceptable

In our settings? Uh,

our language of instruction even at school is English. So, uh,

I doubt that I'm even aware of, uh,

you know, within the research setting of a scenario where, you know,

people use language other than English in terms of the

SOPs, the training. So for us, I,

I don't know about other countries in the, for example,

in the East Africa region, but definitely, certainly for Kenya,

English is the language of, um, it's actually the official language.

Mm-Hmm. Our national language may be Swahili,

but our official language is English. So training materials,

whether it be SOPs or manuals or are all,

all in English.

Yeah. So we're just trying to work out in which countries then translations are

maybe needed to help the technicians and some of maybe the early career

researchers progress onwards. But it sounds like for Kenya, um,

that that wouldn't, that wouldn't be necessary to, to do any translations. So,

uh, yeah, that,

that's a useful comment that just came into my head while we were,

while we were talking about that. So yeah, that, that's, that's good.

That's nice to hear.

So we, we are moving into the last few minutes. So very quickly,

Karen, how can people get involved,


with the ISAC for the instruments for science or the live ed taskforce?

So if you have a look at the ISAC website,

then there are details there for the chairpersons or the information. Um,

so you can can look at that and then email the, the chairs of the groups.

If you've got, um,

comments or you've got instruments that you think would be suitable for

donations, then, you know,

get in touch and we can send you details as to what information's needed. And,

uh, yeah, no, that, that's, uh, that's, that'd be great to,

to hear from anybody that's got something that is fit for purpose and could be

utilized for, you know, further year service.

And there are other initiatives out there that actually funding charitable

funding donations can really help.

And obviously Bill Telford's podcast has some of this information,

but Paul Robinson as well has initiatives around this area that are

sit with Isaac and outside Isaac, but do look at those.

And there's a donations page as well on the ISAC website for anybody that wishes

to donate to contribute in terms of a monetary form to these types of


And it specifically goes to the civic task force or the civic mission that, uh,

that we've described.

So to end on, uh, Margaret,

what do you most like about working at ry?

What do I most like, uh, what do you most


I think, uh,

the opportunity to live my dream of coming a, a researcher,

I think that's what I, you know, um, I like the most,

and especially I always have loved, uh,

been involved in research that I can see, uh,

becoming of immediate impact in the community. That is something that,

um, really I, I really like, uh, that, uh, motivates me.

Uh, I know the, the, the current project we are working on may, you know,

that may not immediately, uh,

lead to something of direct impact in the community,

but we are hoping that it'll make a contribution somewhere down the line and,

uh, uh,

whether for prevention of vis relish analysis or,

you know, a vaccine or what, you know, you know,

when we decipher the mechanisms that allowing the,

the pathogenesis of the disease, who knows,

we may identify a pathway that can eventually become a target for a,

a drug intervention. So, uh,

I think what I love the most is my contribution to,

uh, the opportunity to con, make a contribution in the understanding of, uh,

certainly for the purposes of the project that we are working with the

University of York, uh, vis nurses, uh,

my contribution to the understanding of the disease process and

the hope that what that can lead to an intervention soon

sooner or maybe much, much it.


I know research is moving very nicely at the moment from the York side

and, and the collaboration side. Karen, same question for you.

What do you most like working about at York?

I like the variety of what flow cytometry can offer to

the department, but also the wider university. And also we're open access,

so we collaborate and work with partners, you know, internationally as well.

So, um, I like the parasitology and the immunology and the flow cytometry.

They would be my three mainstays,

but I like the way that I can learn from the other disciplines and the other

biologies that come in through our doors. And, um,

yeah, the people that we work with are fantastic. Um, you know,

really good,

really want to learn and push the science forward and are happy to listen and

discuss. So I think it's a,

a combination and the team that we have,

It's a good answer. Karen, it's not the right answer.

The right answer is obviously working with me, but

Oh no, I wasn't gonna, I wasn't gonna fulfill that, that that tick box, Pete.

I did say the team and you're part of the team, so we're head of the team,

so it's in the mix somewhere.

On that note, we are up to the hour.

Thank you for everyone who's listened to this podcast.

I apologize we haven't got all pictures today, but there'll be some,

hopefully the pictures you see, uh, will have kept it engaging.

For those listening, thank you very much for listening.

Please don't forget to subscribe to your favorite channel for this.

But also don't forget, go back, listen to Bill Telford.

You can listen to Karen with Derek and learn more about Karen herself, uh,

Paul Robinson. You've heard, uh, Alfonso Blanc,

you've also heard go and catch up with their podcast as well. But Margaret,

Karen, I wish you all the very best going forward with this project.

I hope that you get to meet in person again.

I know this year's meeting didn't happen and I look forward to more

collaborations and research in the future. Thank you everyone. Thank you, Pete.

Thank you.

Creators and Guests

Dr Peter O'Toole
Dr Peter O'Toole
Head of Imaging and Cytometry, York
Margaret Mbuchi
Margaret Mbuchi
Principal Research Scientist, Kenya Medical Research Institute
Africa Special with Karen Hogg (University of York) and Margaret Mbuchi (Kenya Medical Research Institute)