By Abujah Racheal
The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), says it has emerged as a huge contributor to the national and global response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a niche focus on African Traditional Medicines.
Dr. Obi Adigwe, Director-General of the NIPRD, told the News Agency of Nigeria( NAN) in an interview on Sunday, in Abuja, that the agency provided the internationally acclaimed analysis that underpinned government’s categorical position on the Madagascar COVID-19 organics preparation.
“This analysis went viral internationally, with scientists and policymakers around the world referencing NIPRD’s seminal work on the product. With our work, multitude of lives on the continent were saved.
“The continent conserved millions of dollars that would otherwise have been expended on an unverified product, and research and development resources were prioritised to more effective solutions,” he said.
Adigwe said that for the first time in the country’s history, the agency constituted an interdisciplinary team of over 20 eminent and erudite Professors drawn from various universities to form the National Scientific Advisory Committee (NSAC) on the verification of claims by traditional medicine practitioners.
He added that he convened the NSAC and the landmark achievement ensured that coronavirus cure claims were subjected to the highest international science, in addition to ensuring that the highest relevant standards of safety and efficacy were maintained, in order to safeguard the lives of Nigerians.
The NIPRD helmsman noted that the agency had also leveraged on its reputation as the first African institute to develop a world class phytomedicine, from drug discovery up to phase 2 clinical trials, to begin work on repurposing Niprimune, with its flagship immunomodulatory agent for relevant clinical studies for COVID-19.
“Earlier in the year, at the onset of the pandemic, NIPRD pioneered and strongly advocated indigenous manufacturing of hand sanitisers from locally sourced raw materials.
“The institute notably produced its own brand of hand sanitisers and this has gone on to become famous for its high international quality.
“The institute has also been involved as a sponsor, as well as a technical partner to a number of ongoing Randomised Control Trials aimed at scientifically proving the efficacy of a number of conventional medicines,” he said.
Adigwe attributed these exponential accomplishments at the NIPRD to a number of factors, however, he singled out the improved capacity of his already considerably well-resourced faculty, as a key success factor.
“Within 18 months of my appointment, I have galvanized the institute’s workforce into a world class team, using a combination of strategies.
“For instance, from less than 10 percent prior to my appointment, today every single confirmed NIPRD staff has received a laptop and tablet to optimize their respective deliveries.
”Similarly, a year-on-year analysis before and after I was appointed indicated that there has also been a tenfold increase in local and foreign trainings for researchers and non-technical staff.
“This has no doubt significantly impacted on the quality of the institute’s work and consequently improved access to relevant health and socioeconomic variables.
”For instance, during this pandemic, NIPRD retained its ISO 17025 certification through remote testing, making it the first in the region to accomplish this via this model,” he disclosed.
According to him, NIPRD has also commenced its nationwide training and building the capacity of traditional medicines practitioners.
“This year, the activity has been decentralized to states and rural areas, to ensure a robust and comprehensive engagement with Governors, sub-National policymakers and regulators, as well as to mitigate identified challenges such as paucity of funds, limited information technology capacity and poor understanding of scientific, policy and regulatory processes.
Adigwe noted that less than two years into his appointment, he had rekindled NIPRD’s recognition by its increased representation on high level committees of pertinent organizations such as the World Health Organisation, TETfund, Central Bank of Nigeria, COVID-19 Presidential Task Force, National Security Advisory Committee, among others.
He bemoaned a lack of investment and prioritisation of Research and Development pertaining to African traditional medicines, and consequently urged philanthropists, foundations, development partners and private sector actors to get involved.
The DG reiterated NIPRD’s commitment to continue fostering ground-breaking evidence-based methodologies and policies that would enable Nigeria, and indeed Africa, to fulfil the inherent health and socioeconomic potentials of African traditional medicines. (NAN)