Gyaviira Nkurunungi


Research areas of interest: Immunology, Vaccinology, Immunoinformatics, Parasitic infections


Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Uganda Research Unit   |   Vaccine and Immunity Theme

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine   |   Department of Infection Biology

Education and Research background  

My major research focus is on the immunomodulating effects of chronic infections on communicable and non-communicable diseases, and on vaccine immunogenicity and effectiveness. I hold a PhD in immuno-epidemiology (2016-2019) and an MSc in immunology (2013-2014) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My PhD focused on immunological mechanisms of helminth-allergy associations in rural and urban Uganda, with an emphasis on antibody studies. Earlier in my career, I contributed to work on childhood tuberculosis infection and was involved in work on the utility of interferon-gamma release assays, at the time hailed as the ‘100-year upgrade’ in TB diagnosis. Our analyses highlighted substantial discordance with the conventional tuberculin skin test in Ugandan children. It also contributed to the important and still on-going dialogue on better TB diagnostics among children.

Currently, I lead the immunology team on an Medical Research Council (MRC) UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-funded programme of Ugandan trials assessing population differences in vaccine-specific responses. My European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP)-funded preparatory fellowship (2021) and Wellcome Trust-funded early career training fellowship (2022-2025) both use samples from these trials for studies aimed at unravelling biological predictors of vaccine response. I am also the immunology work package lead on the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Uganda Schistosomiasis Multidisciplinary Research Centre.

My work on immune responses to vaccines

My work exploits the unique opportunity provided by samples from rural and urban Ugandan trials assessing geographical differences in vaccine-specific responses. Using cutting-edge wet lab techniques and integrative computational approaches, I am investigating the pre- and post-vaccination immunological and metabolic profiles underpinning high and low vaccine responses. Also importantly, I am exploring how these profiles might mediate any effects of particular environmental exposures (for example, parasitic or herpesvirus infections) on vaccine response. This work has the potential to contribute to strategies geared towards improving vaccine effectiveness for rural tropical settings. For example, through pre-vaccination interventions to treat immunomodulating infections, or through directly priming immune or metabolic responses.

beyond research

I am a football lover. I play weekly with friends and workmates, and every fortnight in my high school alumni league.