By Emmanuel Elebeke
Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Prof. Maurice Iwu, said yesterday he has found a cure for the dreaded coronavirus.
Prof. Iwu, who is the CEO of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria, BION, disclosed this yesterday when he led his team of researchers to brief Ministers of Science and Technology and Health in Abuja.
He said his institute identified and patented the possible COVID 19 treatment far back in 2015 at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, where he was a professor of Pharmacognosy and continued in America when he was visiting scholar at the Division of experimental Therapeutics of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington DC, USA, between 1994 and 2003.
This, he said, was reactivated in 2004/2005 during the Ebola Virus epidemic.
Iwu said his company collaborated with leading laboratories from different parts of the world to come up with anti-Ebola virus activity of three structurally characterised compounds from Nigerian plants which were subsequently granted patent protection by the federal government of Nigeria in 2018.
He said: “I am here to formally brief you about our drug discovery project, which has led to the identification of a potential treatment agent for coronavirus infections.
‘’You will recall that on July 23, 2018, you presented to scientists of the Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) patent certificates granted by the Trade mark, Patent and Design Registry facilitated by the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, NOTAP.
“The three patents granted to us NG/p?2015.84; NG/P/2015/85 and NG/P/2015/97 were based on discoveries from the natural products drugs screening programme at Bioresources Institute of Nigeria, BION, focused in Neglected Tropical Diseases, emergent Infections and Orphan diseases.’’
According to him, the lead drug discovery project includes the chemical isolation and characterization of naturally occurring compounds and subjecting them to a battery of bioassays for the identification of potentially useful drug-lead molecules.
‘’Our approach is the use of a network of eminent scientists and leading laboratories to target particular diseases, especially fever virus, Chikungunya, Coronarus and Tacaribe virus; and chronic metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases,’’ he added.
He solicited federal government’s support to enable BION translate the compound into drug for treatment of virus.
Iwu, who was optimistic of the ability of Nigerian scientists to find local solution to global problems, further emphasised the need for the country to remain ahead of these emergent infections through research.
Responding, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who expressed joy at the feat recorded by BION, said that Nigeria would not continue to copy other people but be able to show that it parades the most intelligent people to find solutions to global problems.
READ ALSO: Coronavirus delaying reconstruction of Ibom Science Park — Akwa Ibom govt
“We cannot continue to copy other countries but show that we have the best brains in Nigeria. It is gladdening to know that the NIHS had already entered an MoU with the BION. The ministry had already set up a Committee to look into any drug related issues,’’ he said.
Recall that the minister had recently thrown a challenge to Nigerian scientists to find solution to COVID 19 and promised to offer N36 million to whoever found the cure.
While commending Iwu and his team, the minister directed him to present his findings for verification to the standing committee set up by the ministry to look into drug related researches for further actions.
He, however, reiterated the federal government’s commitment to support any effort that will assist the country in solving problems.
In his own remarks, the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, said if Nigeria must grow and develop, it was Nigerians that would do it.
He also aligned with Prof. Iwu in saying that the best time to prepare for war was during the peace time.
“Be rest assured that we will collaborate with you so that we will take this finding to the next level, so we can tell the whole world that we can do something,’’ Mamora said.
He, however, warned Nigerians to be wary of fake drugs in circulation for COVID 19 and other dreaded diseases.