Minister inaugurates genomics centre, unveils Hepatitis B Viral kits

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By Kemi Akintokun

Dr Tunji Alausa, Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, on Thursday inaugurated the Centre for Human Virology and Genomics at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR).

Inaugurating the centre in Lagos on Thursday, Alausa said it would open up avenues for more research and boost the country’s public healthcare.

Alausa, who also unveiled the institute’s Hepatitis B Viral (HBV) Kits, said Nigeria had a prevalence rate of 13.2 percent chronic hepatitis B, which translated to millions of carriers in the country.

According to him, kits will help in monitoring response of patients to treatment and the level of the viral load in them.

“We are here today to commission this centre as a reflection of the environment the current administration has created to invest in research and development.

“The centre will create an enabling environment for more Genomics studies on HIV, hepatitis A and B, and other diseases peculiar to our country.

“The standard here can be compared with what is obtainable in the developed countries in terms of genomics and virology.

“The production of the NIMR HBV kits shows that our researchers can compete with other researchers across the globe.

“NIMR should commercialise these kits, which is effective and cheap ,” he said.

The minister commended NIMR for its proactive and futuristic approach to research development in the country.

Earlier, Prof. Babatunde Salako, the Director-General NIMR, said the institute, which is the foremost in the country,  had contributed significantly to science and nation building.

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Salako said the inaugurated centre was a purposed built facility that would further assist NIMR to fulfill its mandate of investigating viruses affecting humans and genomics variation influencing disease outcome.

He added that the HBV kits, formulated by NIMR researchers, would improve detection and assessment of hepatitis B viral load, which was key to monitoring of patients.

According to him, a systematic review and meta-analysis identified the prevalence of HBV as 13.6 percent in the country, making it a major public health concern affecting millions.

Salako said: “This growing human infrastructure capacity is poised to enable this centre to soon become a powerhouse for genomics and precision medicine in Nigeria.

“The facility will become a core research facility for Nigerians, given that viruses are leading contenders for the next world pandemic and the increasing recognition of human genomics role in determining disease outcome.

“In Nigeria, the diagnosis for HBV has become expensive and far fetched, majorly because of cost of purchase and availability.

“The NIMR HBV PCR kit is developed to enable reliable detection and quantification of all hepatitis B genotypes,”he said.

NAN reports that the NIMR HBV kit was developed by Dr Joseph Shaibu. a Molecular Virologist at the institute.(NAN)

Edited by Remi Koleoso/Ifeyinwa Omowole

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