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Stakeholders Seek Homegrown Drug Production

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Stakeholders such as pharmacognosists, pharmaceutical chemists, pharmacologists, biochemists and

microbiologists have been advised to collaborate on local drug production from herbs and plants in Nigeria.

This call was made by Emeritus Prof Joseph Okogun, professor emeritus at the Department of Chemistry, University of Ibadan at a public lecture as part of activities to mark his 80th birthday by Bevekt Gedu Chemical Company.

Prof Okogun, while speaking on the public lecture with the title ‘Active, Bitter and Sweet – A lifetime of Research on Plants, Anti-Cancer Remedies and Drug Discovery,’ said plants are unrivaled organic chemical factories producing useful chemicals that man exploits for various purposes.

He said natural chemistry of plants is important to healthy living, adding that variety of active ingredients have been discovered from everyday leaves and fruits found in Nigeria and West Africa that can either treat or manage a lot of common ailments in Nigeria and elsewhere at affordable cost.

“There are organic and natural remedies for the management of various diseases including cancer and HIV/AIDS using several decades of data from scientific research on plants by Bevekt Gedu. Out of Bevekt Gedu’s work, a pure compound was initially obtained from a Nigerian plant, which has been adopted, and about to be finalised for drug development as a blockbuster drug by IMI of USA. This is an indication that opportunities for long lasting and sustainable investments are abundant locally,” said Prof Okogun.

Explaining how drugs are produced, Prof Okogun said plant materials are usually processed and powdered for extraction with solvents of various polarities so that different types of compounds are extracted by the different solvents, adding that the solvents range from gases (carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon) in supercritical fluid states, petroleum through ethanol to water.

“For instance, through the removal of solvent, the usually dark brown gum is separated into the component compounds in the mixture using various chromatographic methods with or without bioactivity screening depending on the nature of the targeted compounds.

“When biologically active compounds are identified, there may be need to improve on the activity and or toxicity by modifying the structures using chemistry linked with biology. Identified potential drugs with known mechanism of actions are used as molecular probes in diagnosis and disease research,” he added.

He said drug discovery and production are results of a multi-disciplinary enterprise and require input from most human disciplines of study. He however, urged all stakeholders involved in the study of plants and animals to create a local value chain that would lead to the multiplier effect of saving foreign exchange and thousands of jobs in the rural and urban areas.

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