Nigerian scientists would have been able to produce a viable COVID-19 vaccine if there were already infrastructures and research funding on ground, say stakeholders.
For instance, the president, Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPHARM), Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi in a chat says government needs to beam the searchlight on the sorry plight of scientific research in Nigeria and prioritise anew on scientific research.
He argued that scientific research in the universities and research institutes such as the Nigerian institute for pharmaceutical research and development, the Nigerian institute for medical research and other indigenous efforts, need to be boosted with more funding.
In same vein, the DG, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Dr. Obi Adigwe, notes funding is a huge problem when it comes to research in Nigeria.
“Here in Nigeria and Africa, we have to fight to get our foot at the door, because we take research and development at the back roll and that will not take us anywhere, hence the need for us to prioritise so that we can get the funding, from development partners and foundations, outside government funding,” he added.
If Nigeria were to wait for foreign countries to develop remedies for COVID-19, it will be the last in the queue to receive such remedies, says governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele.
For the sake of the over 200 million Nigerians now confronted by COVID-19, Emefiele said CBN has made a commitment to provide funding for the development and research of drugs and vaccines to help in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CBN governor, however challenged Nigerian scientists at home and in the diaspora to go back to their laboratories and develop a Nigerian vaccine.
In response, consultant medical parasitologist and lead investigator, ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Idi-Araba, Prof. Dr. Wellington Oyibo told me that the intervention of the CBN is commendable.
The consultant notes that scientists are ready but funding pathway must be encouraging and clearly pipeline-based for impact, while adding that there should be consistence and not an ad hoc plan, as scientists will be looking at a mega 5-year plan by the CBN to make very significant impact.
The missing component from the CBN call is the support for Centres of Excellence that can drive basic-translational research in biologics/vaccine, diagnostics and drug research to validation and implementation, Oyibo said, adding that these could be in areas of infectious diseases/tropical diseases, establishment of biobanks for diseases and clinical trials.
“Appropriate infrastructure and funding stream that permits collaboration support and post-doctoral positions can accelerate this process for the future. This may not be immediate but platforms must be established for healthcare research and development (diagnostics, biologics and drugs) in the country and preferably located in universities,” he added.