Francis Ndungu

Francis Ndungu

Principal Investigator

Research groups: IMMUNOCOV, CONAIPS


Francis did his PhD in immunology at the National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK (NIMR). He then took up a post-doctoral training position at NIMR and was successful at implementing a new programme of research in quantifying antigen-specific memory B cells in a mouse model of malaria.  

He moved back to KWTRP (Kenya) in 2008 as a post-doctoral researcher to start and build a research group. His main areas of interest are:

  • Immunological memory to malaria parasites in historically infected individuals,
  • Host factors responsible for increased susceptibility to malaria in a small proportion of children that experience excessively more malaria than expected, and
  • The mechanisms responsible for controlling parasite growth and inflammation in semi-immune adults following experimental infections.

These studies are providing the much-needed insight into how we can induce protective immune responses to P. falciparum malaria by vaccination in the background of the immune-regulatory state induced by natural exposure in endemic areas. 

Upon the introduction of Covid-19, he was quick to use his experience and skills to initiate a project on Covid-19 immunology – understanding Sars-CoV-2 immunology in the African population. Furthermore, his group has been involved in the response to the pandemic in Kenya with involvements in Covid-19 testing, and sequencing of Sars-CoV-2 viruses. 



  • Reena Shah, Stanley Lutchers, Shaheen Sayed, Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi  
  • Sodiomon B. SIRIMA and MIMVaC Africa, GRAS, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso  
  • Jean Langhorne, Francis Crick Institute, London, UK 
  • Azza Idriss and Robert Seder, NIH, USA  
  • Katie Ewer and Adrian Hill, Oxford, UK 
  • David Anderson, Burnet Institute, Australia 
  • Ian Cockburn, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia  
  • Azza Idriss and Robert Serder, NIH, USA  
  • Peter Billingsley and Stephen Hoffman, Sanaria, USA 
  • Stephen Scally and Alan Cowman, WEHI, Melbourne, Australia 
  • James Brewer and Paul Garside, University of Glasgow, UK 
  • Anna Farnert and Anna Smed Sörensen, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden 
  • Bartek Makower and Peter Jahnmatz, Mabtech AB, Stockholm, Sweden 
  • Tom Ottenhoff, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands 
  • David Anderson, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia  
  • Pjotr Prins, University of Tennessee, USA 

Scientific Involvements:  


  • Co-Directs AfriBOP, an international immunobiology course targeting young African scientists. 
  • Advanced Immunoloy Courses and supervision at Pwani University. 

Supervision: 2 postdoctoral, 4 PhD and 10 MSc students so far 

Reviews: Several  


Research Projects:  

  1. Host immune responses to SARS-CoV-2: correlating kinetics with the natural history of infection (ImmunoCoV)  
  2. Determining Cellular Correlates of Immunity to Blood Stage Malaria in an Experimental Human Challenge Model of Exposed Adults  
  3. Determining Correlates of Naturally Acquired Pre-Erythrocytic Immunity to Plasmodium falciparum Malaria in an Experimental Human Challenge Model 

Title: CoNAIPS, ImmunoCoV 

Research Group Members: Jedida Mwachiro, Perpetual Wanjiku, 3 PhD and 4 MSc students