UNC Project Malawi

The UNC Project is a collaboration between the University of North Carolina and the Malawi Ministry of Health. Established in 1999 with a focus primarily on sexually transmitted infections and HIV, the project’s research focus has expanded to encompass HIV treatment of adults and children, treatment of HIV opportunistic infections, biologic HIV prevention including vaccines, maternal child health and family planning, HIV associated malignancies, and implementation science.

The mission of UNC Project Malawi is to identify innovative, culturally acceptable, and affordable methods to improve the health of the people of Malawi, through research, capacity building, and care.


Prof. Mina Hosseinipour MD, MPH: Principal Investigator 

I am a Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and the Scientific Director at UNC Project.  I am an internal medicine and infectious diseases physician with research interests in the treatment of HIV and its complications, including opportunistic infections such as TB and cryptococcal meningitis.

I support research operations at the Lilongwe site and play an active role in the mentorship of junior investigators. Together with Cecilia I oversee the work of the AMBITION study team here in Lilongwe.

Dr. Cecilia Kanyama, MBBS, FCP(SA): Principal Investigator

I am an internal medicine physician with particular interests in the improvement of diagnostic tests for HIV and associated conditions, and in the management of cryptococcal disease in resource-limited settings. I am a Principal Investigator for several TB, Cryptococcal Meningitis and HIV treatment trials at UNC Project Malawi. Together with Mina I oversee the work of the AMBITION study team here in Lilongwe.

Chimwemwe Chawinga: Study Co-ordinator / Junior Investigator

I have seven years of experience as an investigator in clinical trials, and from 2014 – 2017 was employed as a clinician-investigator in the ACTA Trial.  My research interests focus upon the treatment of HIV/AIDS and its complications, including opportunistic infections such as cryptococcal meningitis, tuberculosis and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

I play an active role in ensuring that the study is conducted according to the protocol, and to principles of GCP. I help ensure quality clinical management of trial participants and coordinate all activities for laboratory, pharmacy and data entry.

Dr. Timothy Kachitosi: Medical Officer

I am heavily involved in AMBITION, working as a point of care doctor. I am currently a junior doctor, and dream of undertaking a medical specialty with a focus on epidemiology and infectious diseases. I have a passion for research, so am delighted to be part of the AMBITION team. Prior to joining UNC Project in 2018, I worked for St John’s Hospital as a medical doctor. 

Emily Kumwenda: Lead Study Nurse

I joined the ACTA Team in July 2013, and am interested in providing care to HIV-positive patients. My responsibilities in AMBITION include patient identification, consenting and enrolment, collection of study samples, ordering and administering drugs, and procuring equipment. I also communicate with patients to minimise loss-to-follow-up and assist clinicians with follow-up visits.

Beauty Kamanga: Study Nurse

I am a Registered Nurse Midwife and hold a University Diploma in Nursing and Midwifery. Prior to joining the AMBITION team I worked on a range of clinical studies here at UNC Project. These included a study to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, paediatric malaria vaccine trials, ITIP (Innovative Treatments in Pneumonia) and the EDCTP-funded DREAMM study. In AMBITION my role is to ensure that we meet our study enrolment targets here in Lilongwe by sensitising and consenting potential patients, providing care as per the protocol and by conducting follow-up visits.

Laureen Kafantenganji: Study Nurse 

I am a certified Nurse/Midwife Technician. I have worked on a large number of clinical studies during my time here at UNC Project. These include a study working to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, a Phase III trial on latent TB in HIV-infected individuals, a project looking at the treatment of Kaposi Sarcoma, and several other studies involving chemotherapy and anti-retroviral treatment in resource-limited settings. I enjoy working as part of a team.

My main role on AMBITION is to sensitize, consent and enrol participants, to administer drugs and to provide care and follow-up throughout the study.  

Felix Namalueso: Data Manager

I have been working at UNC Project for the past 9 years, and am currently employed as Data Manager for the ACTA, DREAMM and AMBITION studies. I am responsible for all Data Management issues for these studies, which includes attending to queries from the Data Management Centres (DMC) and from the study protocol teams.

Wilberforce Mhango: Study Pharmacist

I hold a BA in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, and a DipPharm. I have worked as a registered Pharmacy Technologist under the Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board since 2006. I am currently a Pharmacist of Record for Aids Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), and Associate Pharmacist in various studies at UNC Project Malawi. I was the lead Pharmacist for the ACTA Trial, and work in the same capacity for AMBITION. I also act as the Importer of Records for  the Blantyre and Lilongwe sites.

Tarsizio Chikaonda: Microbiologist & Lab Manager

I hold a PhD and an MSc in Biomedical Sciences, with a specific specialty in Microbiology. I have a particular interest in Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and I have been involved in a significant amount of AMR research work involving other bacterial pathogens, in addition to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. For the past few years, I have held senior positions in Microbiology, both at UNC Project and at Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust. I was the Laboratory point person for the ACTA study (Lilongwe site) and currently lead laboratory activities for DREAMM, in addition to heading up the Microbiology Laboratory at the UNC Project. I am the Laboratory Lead for AMBITION.

James Kaphatika: Laboratory Technician

I hold a BA in Health Systems Management, a Diploma in Biomedical Sciences and a Certificate in Radiological Techniques. I am a member of the Medical Council of Malawi. I have been working as a Laboratory Technician since 1999 in various medical institutions. As a bench technician I have been involved in routine laboratory work and also in part-time radiological work.

I started working here at UNC Project in 2015, where I am responsible for all routine tests in the Microbiology / Parasitology Department. Prior to joining the AMBITION team I worked on the ACTA and DREAMM studies.

Janet Zambezi: Laboratory Technician

I hold a Bachelors Degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences from the University of Malawi, College of Medicine. Prior to joining UNC Project I volunteered as a Laboratory Technologist at Kamuzu Central Hospital Laboratory, where I developed an appreciation of the need for efficient and effective policies, strategies and sustainable interventions to address the burden of infectious diseases in Malawi through biomedical research. I am passionate about such interventions and am excited to be a part of the AMBITION team.

I will be taking a break from my role as Laboratory Technician this year, in order to pursue an MSc in Immunology of Infectious Diseases at LSHTM (2019/20).

Hajirah Jabiri: Laboratory Technician

Prior to joining UNC Project Malawi, I worked at Central Health Limited, a health clinic in Lilongwe.
I am currently employed as a Lab Technician for AMBITION in the Cell Processing lab department here at UNC Project. I have taken over some of Janet Zambezi’s responsibilities whilst she is pursuing her MSc in London.

I play an active role in ensuring that AMBITION samples are processed and stored, both electronically in the Laboratory Data Management System (LDMS), and physically in the freezer.

I am very excited to be part of the AMBITION team!

Fanny Mtambo: Study Administrator

I have been working with UNC Project since 2005 in the Administration Department, supporting with a wide range of activities. I am responsible for ensuring that technical staff – both local and expatriates – are fully registered with the relevant statutory boards, and for the processing of work permits for expatriates. I also provide high level administrative support to the AMBITION and DREAMM studies and teams, co-ordinating all administrative logistics.

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