Mbeya Research Centre, formerly known as Mbeya Medical Research Programme (MMPR) was founded in 1996 by the Mbeya Regional Medical Office, Mbeya Referral Hospital and Department of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at the University of Munich. By then, the programme was involved in conducting small collaborative studies on HIV/AIDS. However, the first formal project was established under European Commission (EC) support in 2000. The US Military HIV Research Programme (MHRP) became one of the key MMRP partners in 2001 and collaboration with the National Institute of Medical Research was established in 2004. On 1st August 2008, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the five partners for the MMRP to become a NIMR collaborative centre. Two years later Centre was officially gazetted to become Mbeya Medical Research Centre of the National Institute for Medical Research (Government Notice No. 428of 12th November 2010).
Currently, the centre has 168 employees including doctors, social scientists, laboratory scientists, nurses, technicians, and supporting staff. Out of 168 staff, 25 are research scientists – 1 PhD holder, 6 Master degree holders (MPH/MMed) and 18 Bachelor degree holders (MD/BSc/BPharm). The rest include 3 Laboratory Technologists, 25 Laboratory Technicians, 21 Laboratory Assistants, 3 Assistant Medical Officers, 9 Clinical Officers, 25 Nurses, 3 IT specialists, 14 Data Management Staff and 40 Administrative and Supporting Staff.
Mbeya Centre has a three-storey facility dedicated to medical research clinics, laboratory, logistics, data management and administrative activities. In addition, there are five other buildings on the campus for additional research clinics, laboratory, information technology (IT) and additional office space. The site is equipped with state of the art computer and laboratory equipment
The centre conducts research in the fields of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other priority diseases. In addition, the Centre carries studies to evaluate new interventions for these diseases utilising vaccines, drugs and diagnostics focusing on basic research, clinical trials, epidemiological research, operational research and social sciences.
Mbeya Centre is country-wide famous for its Mobile Diagnostic and Training Centre (MDTC). The MDTC was established to achieve the following:
To facilitate early diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis in collaboration with the health facilities in the rural communities using modern laboratory equipment, hence shortening the diagnosis time and facilitate early treatment of the disease. The diagnosed patients are therefore, immediately referred to the treatment centres.
To train health workers in the health facilities within the communities served by the MDTC and ensure quality control of the laboratory services in the respective health facilities.
To give health education to the community members using video/film shows in the evenings. The video/film shows focus on HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis – how to recognize them, prevention, importance of early diagnosis and treatment.
Among the major Achievements of Mbeya Centre include: (i) It is the Centre that conducted the first HIV vaccine trial in Tanzania; (ii) The Mobile Diagnostic and Training Centre (MDTC) provide services on the early diagnosis and management of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis the rural communities of Mbeya Region. The MDTC also provided services during the Trade Fair Exhibitions (Saba-Saba) in 2010 and Farmers Exhibitions (Nane-Nane) in 2010 and 2011; (iii) The Centre has built professional capacity of many Tanzanians- some are still going on with long-term training at Bachelor, Masters and PhD levels with financial support from the centre.
The Centre has conducted many studies at the international standard, therefore, it is well trusted by the Mbeya community and has attracted many researchers inside and outside the country to learn or collaborate; many higher learning institutions are also sending their students to the centre for practical training.