By Godfrey AKON
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, says it is providing “mega research support” to four public agencies, led by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NIPRD, for the purpose of producing drugs.
Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof Suleiman Bogoro, disclosed this on Tuesday, during a virtual meeting on Institutionalisation of R&D in Nigeria’s Pharmaceutical Subsector Thematic Group of the TETFund Research and Development Standing Committee, RDSC, which coincided with the one year anniversary of the establishment of the committee.Bogoro, who did not provide details of the identity and specific research activities the other agencies are expected to undertake, noted that the NIPRD will collaborate with the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan to carry out research and production of phytomedicine.
“TETFund will be providing mega research support to some agencies; in a matter of days, maximum one or two weeks thereabouts, who knows even before the end of this week, I may be sitting with about four entities that have been identified.
“And I am happy to mention here that NIPRD will be leading the mega research thrust in respect of drug development and I intend to request that they work with one or two entities,” he said.
Speaking on the institutional arrangement of the proposed National Research and Development Foundation, NRDF, he said the foundation would be subsumed under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, when it is established, stating that the agency would not be domiciled in a single ministry.
The TETFund boss expressed belief that activities of the RDSC are gradually and firmly transforming perceptions about research in the country, adding that the committee was changing peoples opinions about the appropriate direction that the country must take, going forward.
“I cannot remember to the best of my recollection, at anytime in our country, where the issue of institutionalisation of R&D, the triple helix concept, the deepening of research, the emphasis on problem solving research, rather than status acquiring research, has become the topic in almost every engagement, private and public.
“That is exactly what it was intended and I took note of the very well placed acknowledgement of all of you, the leadership and members of RDSC and the great patriotic contributions.
“We should be proud of what we are doing for our nation. May we remain focused. The patriotic resolve of all members has been the secret of the success of RDSC. At a time that Covid-19 has ravaged the world, we are turning to the experts, the pharmaceutical scientists have significant and central role to play,” he said.
Chairman of TETFund Research and Development Standing Committee, RDSC, Prof Njidda Gadzama, who delivered the anniversary speech at the meeting,said since its inauguration on September 24, 2020, the committee which comprises of 165 members and 13 thematic groups, has produced about 32 different reports.
Gadzama said although the committee’s work was done during very difficult times, under Covid-19, it paid advocacy visits to several appropriate bodies and agencies with visible R&D outputs in Nigeria, adding that such visits have consolidated its thinking that the new paradigm of knowledge based economy would enhance the GDP of Nigeria.
“And judging by the commitment of members and their drive to succeed, coupled with the convener’s dogged determination in ensuring development of R&D backed knowledge economy for Nigeria, we have gone very far in our assignment. Many milestones have been achieved and about 32 different reports are in the custody of TCT.
“Therefore, the final report of this committee will indeed, be a formidable national document for reference or for instruction and as a guide to Nigeria; as part of progress, it must be noted here that the committee for legal establishment of national research and development foundation has completed its work. But the convener is however in the best position to report on that,” he said.
A Vice Chairman of the RDSC, Engr Mansur Ahmed noted that there is no better time to demonstrate the importance of the pharmaceutical sector than the time the world is going through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ahmed said while other nations have by now vaccinated 60 per cent or more of their eligible population, in Africa, as at the 6th of September was just 3 per cent, which means only 3 per cent of eligible Africans that need to be vaccinated were vaccinated.
“Clearly therefore as we all know, vaccination is right at the centre of the pharmaceutical industry. Of the 55 countries in Africa, 42 have not vaccinated up to 10 per cent and one had vaccinated more 30 per cent of their population. So clearly, the problem is not just one country but the whole of the continent.
“Of the various vaccines available in the world, probably about a dozen or so, with their varieties and combinations, literally all of them are here in Africa but only one of them is finished in Africa. Which means while other countries are producing vaccines, Africa has to acquire from different sources, meaning we are depending on all others,” he said.