Maurice Iwu, former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission and professor of pharmacognosy got the assurances of two Nigerian ministers on Monday to support his team on their drug project for Wuhan coronavirus.
Based on evaluation, his research effort may be boosted with a N36m grant from the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Iwu told the ministers that the purpose of his visit was to formally brief him on his team’s efforts toward finding a treatment for the Wuhan Coronavirus.
He disclosed that the lead drug discovery project included the chemical isolation and characterisation of naturally occurring compounds and subjecting them to a bioassays for the identification of potentially useful-drug-led molecules.
He said the approach was the use of a network of eminent scientists and leading laboratories to target particular disease, especially neglected tropical, emergent and orphan diseases.
He also said those included leishmaniasis, Ebola virus, Dengue fever virus, chikungunya virus, corona virus and tacaribe virus among others.
He said he came to ask for assistance from Nigerians on the project.
Both Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology and Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minister of State for health pledged support.
Onu said his Ministry would give all the support it could to Prof. Maurice Iwu and his team, working under his Bioresources Development Group, of which he is the chairman.
The minister said that some time ago, the ministry had given a charge to Nigerian scientists knowing they were capable to provide solutions to COVID-19.
Onu said he had tasked them on finding solutions to problems, whether regional or international, and that such problems should not always be left for other people from foreign nations to solve.
“That is why we said that within the resources available to the ministry we are ready to make available N36 million to any scientist who can help us.”
The minister further said that the money was to support any genuine Nigerian scientist with possible treatment for either Lassa fever or COVID-19.
Onu also said that the ministry was very happy that Prof. Iwu had come to it with the “compound he isolated about five years ago”.
He further said that he was happy that Iwu had already entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the U.S. on this project as regards his patents.
Onu called on the Nigeria Academy of Science to come and assist in the project.
He noted that there was a committee set up with the best mind in this area and he believed the committee was ready to start work.
He expressed happiness and optimism that the “compound’’ would be readily available to it for certification.
He said after being advised by the committee the ministry would be ready to give all the support.
According to the minister, Nigeria has the largest concentration of black people in the world, the largest economy in Africa, the largest population in Africa and the largest market.
“ But we believe we have one of the most intelligent people in the world, hence we should also be able to make contributions,’’ he said.
Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minister of State for Health, who was present during the visit, thanked Prof. Iwu and his team for coming up with the identification of the potential treatment agent for coronavirus.
“We must start from somewhere and it is important for us to appreciate that if Nigeria must grow, if Nigeria must develop, it is Nigerians that will develop Nigeria,’’ he said.
He said that the Federal Ministry of Health would partner and collaborate with Iwu on the project.
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