By Hassan Zaggi
The over 75 world-class scientists in the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) are currently discouraged over the lack of support and poor funding of the research activities of the institute.
The institute has tried all it could to attract the needed funding of its research breakthroughs from philanthropists, corporate bodies and well-meaning Nigerians, all to no avail.
The Director General of NIPRD, Dr. Obi Adigwe, expressed his frustration at a media briefing in Abuja, yesterday.
He recalled that one of the products of the Institute that has potential to treat COVID-19 has suffered set back due to lack of funding support from corporate bodies and funding agencies.
He regretted that few days ago, the government of Thailand approved a product that has less ingredient compared to the one discovered by NIPRD for treatment of COVID-19 patients in their country.
“As far back as a year ago, we used our expertise and artificial learning capacity to identity that this product- Niprimil may have activity in the treatment and management of people who come down with COVID-19.
“During that time, we have gone to many TV stations to appeal to philanthropists, development partners and other funding agencies to support NIPRD with the funds that will enable us undertake the remaining scientific activity that will enable us make this product available to the market for COVID-19.
“It will shock you to learn that the authorities in Thailand approved a product that has the active ingredient our product has.
“The authorities in Thailand have approved a tea based on the product for the treatment of COVID-19.
“In the main time, in NIPRD, even though we are one of the first in the world with the hypothesis that this product could help cure COVID-19, the relevant foundations, philanthropist, funding agencies have still not supported us to the level where we will finish the science that will enable us bring this product to the fore.
“Frankly, I am heart broken. This is because nobody has the capacity that we have here in NIPRD. I have close to 75 masters and Ph.Ds, all aggregated in different aspects of the value chain of phytomedicinal development.
“We have gotten centre of excellence over and over again. We have ISO certification. Is it for COVID-19, what we predicted will happen, happened and analysis of product we gave of product that will not work was taken somewhere and validated. We were the first in the world that said it will not work.
“When I saw the approval of the product by the Thailand authorities, I told members of my team that our own product is even more sophisticated.
“Members of the press knows that there is nowhere I go without calling for funding support. There is no where we have not gone, but it seems the thought leaders in Nigeria are only interested on things that are coming from outside Nigeria.”
Dr. Adigwe, however, said that: “Even though my heart is broken, but it will not stop me and my team from shouting out.
“Meanwhile, we have world-class scientists bringing out categorical proof and products first in the whole world and yet people who have the way-withal in Nigeria will not support the work that is done in this institute.
“We are ready to work. I have not taken a leave even for one day since I was appointed two and half years ago and we are ready to work. My staff are ready to do their best for the country, but we must be supported with prioritization in the area of funding.”
On the effort to ensure medicine security in Nigeria, Dr. Adigwe said: “The key things we are going to do to ensure medicines security in the next 10 years include developing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) and stimulating manufacturing in-country; the work we are doing in Nano medicine which is the first in Africa; the work we are doing in terms of using artificial intelligence and machine learning which partly we used to predict that one of our product will have activity on COVID-19 months before the people in Thailand confirmed it. All these things are the first in Africa.”
He, however, applauded the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for supporting NIPRD.
“Since the coming of this administration, there has been some movement towards supporting research and development. CBN and some organisations have support research in phytomedicine. But its like a drop in the ocean. It should not be left for government alone,” he noted.
He, however, insisted that, the world over, research and development is not left for government alone.
He called on everyone that has the capacity to focus on funding NIPRD like the way other nations are doing.