Upon its creation, KEMRI immediately incorporated and consolidated research activities of the defunct East African Medical Council including the naming of the various units and centres.
The naming of KEMRI Centres emerged based on the need for a focus on specific health conditions as well as type of research to be conducted. This has evolved over the years based on the need to realign and harmonize with National and International trends in health research as well as with programs of major collaborative partners.
Currently, KEMRI has 15 research centers with state of the art research facilities and laboratories spread throughout Kenya. Although the Centres have evolved to encompass emerging research needs, they were created based on research areas of expertise.
Over the years, KEMRI has developed a critical mass of highly skilled scientists and technical staff to enable it conduct competitive research ranking it as a leading center of excellence in research for health in Africa and globally.
Within the Health Sector, KEMRI is responsible for providing leadership in health research & development, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options and monitoring and assessing health trends as well as dealing with trans-boundary threats and disease outbreaks.
The Institute further continues to be responsive to the challenges of emerging and re-emerging diseases, including Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), communicable conditions and bio-terrorism.
In addition, the Institute established the KEMRI Graduate School of Health Research that offers courses which are research oriented and geared towards solving national, regional and global health problems. By combining the academic, research, and training capacity available in KEMRI, the Graduate School provides a very fertile academic and research environment for young scientists in particular, to carry out research on the current pressing health issues in the world today.
Other field stations and Research Units established in collaboration with various partners are located in Kericho, Kombewa, Kwale, Salgaa, Mwea, Kirinyaga, Msambweni, Malindi, Mtwapa and Taita Taveta.
The Institute’s activities are further organized into three (3) main thematic areas namely;
1. Research & Development
2.Capacity Building
3.Training, and Products & Services.
Research activities are organized, coordinated and conducted under seven Research Programmes.


Research for human health in the devolved system of Government in Kenya. In contributing towards realization of Equitable, Affordable and Quality Health Care of the Highest Standard as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the Country’s blue print, Vision 2030 and Universal Health Coverage (UHC), KEMRI has developed a comprehensive framework, under which the Institute is carrying out research, capacity building, innovation and service delivery in the country’s 47 Counties. This framework provides seven clusters that are already playing a pivotal role in planning and implementation of research projects and programmes which will translate science to policy formulation, facilitate training and expansion of best practices for service delivery.

Through the clusters, KEMRI has established partnerships and collaborations with both the National and County Governments to address priority local health research agendas and where necessary establish new Research Centres, Units or Stations.

The coordinating stations for the clusters work with County and National Governments on health issues that are specific and relevant to the County Governments.


The National Strategic Focus for Health Research and Development.

In setting up strategies for human health research, it is mandatory that international standards for improvements are observed. This ensures quality research that is approached from a global perspective. The strategy not only strengthens human health research but also involves improved research standards and strengthened capacity. Health policies and practices should be informed by the best research evidence. Investments in health research are generally not sufficient and that traditionally, research is often not focused on priority health problems. At the same time research often does not reflect best practices in terms of ethical review and public accountability. Therefore, it is KEMRI’s strategy, that human health research should be organized and managed in a systematic and comprehensive manner, and efforts to improve health based on evidence from research. The Institute’s strategy addresses the need for integration, networking with stakeholders/partners to produce evidence and tools for improving health.

This is premised on the fact that complex and emerging health challenges demand a proactive and innovative approach. Kenya has several issues that influence the burden of disease. These include, but not limited to human resource capacity, skills, and limited financial resources among others. This leads to dependence on development assistance. In view of this, the Institute has continued to engage National and County governments and other local entities with the aim to increase funding for research.


KEMRI’s role in the Health sector can be categorized into; conducting high quality research that informs evidence based policy, translating research into best practices, capacity building and service delivery for human health.

The Kenyan Government has committed to increase research funding through enactment of the Science Technology and Innovation Act of 2013 which provides for an allocation of up to 2% GDP to research and development. This provides an opportunity for scientific solutions directly targeting Kenya’s health agenda, as part of this allocation trickles down to fund the health research agenda.

Kenya’s vision 2030 goal for the health sector is to “provide equitable and affordable healthcare at the highest affordable standard to citizens”. The national development agenda (Chapter four of the Constitution on the Bill of rights) places a heavy responsibility on the health sector to ensure that citizens secure equitable, affordable and quality health care of the highest standard.

This responsibility is in recognition that a healthy human resource base is pivotal for enhanced national competitiveness, economic growth and development.

It is in this regard that KEMRI as the research arm of the Ministry of Health conduct research for health that facilitate the translation of this goal into reality by ensuring science innovates and informs practical applications to enhance human health


KEMRI’s Contribution to Research for Health Capacity Development in Africa

Over the years, KEMRI has been in the fore-front in the region in the dissemination of research findings through the East African Health Research Commission and a change to KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health Conference (KASH) and the African Journal of Health Sciences (AJHS).

KEMRI also hosts several regional programmes for the promotion of health in Africa.
These include;

  • School-based Parasite Control in Africa (in collaboration with partners)
  • Laboratory Training on the Control of Emerging and Re-emerging Diseases in Africa.
  • Africa Regional Offices for Drugs for Neglected Diseases (DNDi)
  • International Union against TB and Lung Diseases
  • International Union against Cancers, Climate Change and Health.
  • East Africa Public Health Laboratory Network
  • Third Country Training Blood Safety/Parasitic Infections

KEMRI’s contribution to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The UN General Assembly of 25th September 2015 adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled: “Transforming our World”. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlines seventeen (17) goals associated with 169 targets.
The production of knowledge for decision making is instrumental in progressively realizing the Right to “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” as espoused in SDG 3- Good health and well-being. The norms and guidelines for global health are detailed in SDG 3 targets: achieving Universal Health Care, through health systems that are adequately resourced and staffed, and guarantees protection against financial risk, access to quality essential health care services, sexual and reproductive health care, and essential medicines for all. Among the thirteen targets identified for implementation in this goal are;
Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all.
Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States.
Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks