Poor Funding Stalling Local Research on COVID-19 Vaccines, Says NIPRD

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Nigeria Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) has attributed the seeming slow rate of progress in the local research effort aimed at developing anti COVID-19 vaccines on poor funding.

As the country finalises plans to purchase vaccines for the treatment of the pandemic, the agency has advised the federal government to exercise caution and weigh all options before accepting any of the vaccines.

The Institute’s Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Obi Peter Adigwe, lamented that lack of adequate finding is robbing the agency of opportunity to showcase the abundant capacity of the array of professionals at NIPRD.

Adigwe, who addressed journalists at the headquarters of the research agency in Abuja yesterday, said that none of the organisations or philanthropists in the country he approached for funding assistance responded.

“We are proposing Niprimune capsule with Andrographis Paniculata ingredient for the treatment of COVID-19. We projected it for COVID-19 but it needs to pass through those processes before it would be approved. We (NIPRD) were the first to discover that this particular process has effect on the immune system and since it has effect on the immune system, we ran it through the artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities we had, and realised that this would be good for COVID-19 since it affects people whose immune system are compromised. We have done all the pre-clinical tests that show us that this will be very good, and we now need to move to the clinical stage which is expensive, and this is what we need funding for, but nobody is coming forward for assistance,” he said.

Adigwe said researchers at NIPRD had to use machine learning and artificial intelligence capacity to identify that Niprimune may have activities in the management of COVID-19.

“During that time, almost a year ago, we have come on mass media, including television, to appeal to philanthropists and development partners to support NIPRD with the funds that will enable us undertake the remaining scientific activities to help us bring this product to the market for COVID-19. It will shock you to learn that a few days ago, the authorities in Thailand approved Andrographics Maniculatal, and also approved a tea based on Hydrographics for the treatment of COVID-19.

“In the meantime, NIPRD, even if we are one of the first in the world to come up with the hypothesis that could help in the treatment of COVID-19, the relevant foundations, philanthropists, and funding agencies have still not supported us to the level where we can finish the research to enable us bring this product to the fore,” he said.

The Director of NANO Medicine Centre at NIPRD, Prof. Martins Emeje, who spoke on the country’s current quest for COVID-19 vaccine, cautioned the government not be in undue haste in order not to endanger the lives of the people.

He said there was a need to draw a line between emergency authorisation and drug approval as in the case of the COVID-19 vaccines now in the market.

He said that drugs like the current vaccines are susceptible to various reactions when administered, hence the need for multi-centre clinical trials.