ILRI strengthens collaborative partnerships

ILRI strengthens collaborative partnerships with the donation of a computing server to Meru University of Science and Technology

On February 10, ILRI welcomed high-level representatives from Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) to its Nairobi campus to effect ILRI’s donation of a decommissioned computing server to the university. As ILRI purchases new computing servers, which are used to perform intensive data computations and analyses, the old ones housed at ILRI’s campus are decommissioned on a rolling basis. Given that the old servers remain perfectly effective and useful, ILRI saw an opportunity to grow collaborative partnerships and strengthen the local research environment by donating one to MUST.  

Michael Gerba, ILRI’s chief operating officer, Jean-Baka Domelevo Entfellner, ILRI’s head of data and research methods, and Alan Orth, ILRI’s Linux systems administrator and analyst, greeted the MUST representatives, including MUST vice-chancellor Prof. Romanus Odhiambo, Dr Amos Omamo, director of research innovations and commercialization, Dr Frank Onyambu, coordinator of research, collaborations and extensions, and Dr Joan Simam, head of labs at the Meru University Medical Research Centre. ‘ILRI is happy to be able to donate the server and hopes it will lead to future collaborations between our two organizations’, said Gerba. He stressed the importance of the event— ‘young people today need to be trained on statistical analysis, so they can take huge data sets and pull out valuable information’. With the donation of this computing server, MUST will be able to do just that. 

As vice-chancellor Odhiambo explained, ‘Meru University is still very young—only about 10 years old’. As the university works to ramp up its research programs, collaborations with organizations like ILRI are crucial to the strengthening of MUST’s research capacity, especially in fields like bioinformatics. At a base level, the server donated by ILRI will allow MUST scientists and researchers to seamlessly perform complex calculations and analyses that would be very difficult—if not impossible—to carry out on a laptop. One specific application of the server will be to enable MUST’s study of microbial communities through the analysis of sequencing data coming out of their Illumina MiSeq DNA sequencer. However, as Domelevo Entfellner notes, ‘it is a general-purpose computing server, so besides bioinformatics, it can prove useful in a wide variety of projects across different disciplines’. 

The donated computing server. Photo by Wilson Maina/ILRI.

Building on the theme of collaboration—a central focus throughout the event—both Orth and Domelevo Entfellner highlighted the potential for future mentorships with MUST staff to further strengthen the university’s research capacity. ‘ILRI benefits from agreements with the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia, and in turn, we have a responsibility to nurture and grow the local research environment’, said Domelevo Entfellner. The donation of the computing server demonstrates that these partnerships present win-win opportunities for both sides. In this case, ILRI was able to foster a new partnership with a local research university. In turn, MUST will benefit from the improved research capabilities offered by its new computing server.  

Odhiambo wrapped up the event with some final comments. ‘This donation is going to be very useful and will allow us to increase our research activities’, he said. ‘So thank you very much—we look forward to working with ILRI in the future’. As various Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) are in sight between ILRI and MUST scientists, Gerba echoed the importance of future collaborations, through which both organizations will benefit and the Kenyan research environment will grow ever stronger. 

Event participants at the ILRI Nairobi campus. Photo by Wilson Maina/ILRI.