Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta
Nigeria’s leading pharmacist, Prof. Peace Chinedu-Babalola yesterday canvassed precautionary measures to coronavirus away from Nigeria, warning that it could cost the federal government at least $2 billion (about N700 billion) to evolve any new medicine that would cure the virus.
Chinedu-Babalola, the Vice-Chancellor of Chrisland University, gave the warning in an interview she granted THISDAY in Abeokuta shortly after receiving the Kwame Nkruma Award for Scientific Excellence at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Chinedu-Babalola said finding cure for the coronavirus, which is the latest epidemic that has wiped off thousands of souls, especially in China, is capital intensive.
While commending the federal government for promising to release N36 million to aid research into killer diseases, she, however, said in the face of lean resources, the government and the citizenry should take utmost precautions to prevent the disease from spreading to the country.
“This is because an equipment needed to embark on research into diseases such as Ebola Virus, Lassa fever and coronavirus could cost as much as N36 million,” she said.
The don, who was the first female professor of Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan, also said, “When it comes to epidemics, Nigerians know how to take precautions. There is awareness in the country and people are taking their personal precautions.
“In terms of government input, government is doing its best. At the various airports, the government has set up various processes to detect the virus. Government is checking those who are coming into the country at the various ports of entries.”
But the don observed that a lot still had to be done in terms of drug discovery, noting that in terms of drugs discoveries, that is another cup of tea. For you to discover drugs and vaccines is not bread and butter.
“Many times, researches have been going on for years. To produce one medicine, it can take us 10 to 15 years. Although, we now have processes that can reduce drug discovery time.
“For us to discover these things, we need to empower research centres. Nigeria needs to inject money to ensure that scientists are working round the clock, testing different viruses so that if one comes up, we can easily detect it, to start with.
“But we should go beyond detection; as a pharmaceutical scientist, when you study the genetics of a disease, when you study the properties of a particular disease or disease agent, we should use it and target medicines, and molecules that can also kill it or cure it.
“We should go beyond diagnoses, we should also empower centres to be able to discover, design and develop drugs. These things take time. It will cost about $2 billion to develop one medicine. Nigeria needs to think seriously about this.”
Chinedu-Peace also made a case for the encouragement of girls and women “to study science and enhance knowledge the more, in the country. I am passionate about women empowerment, because when the chips are down, women bear a lot burden in the family.
“Many times, the mind-set of people is to allow women to take the lesser or the less demanding profession; you find many women in Humanity professions. Women are not always in the decision making levels. You need to promote the participation of girls and women in, science because they can solve problems that affect both men and women.”