The Director General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, (NIPRD), Dr. Obi Adigwe says the Institute remains committed to ensuring that African pharmaceutical products compete effectively with products from Asia, Europe and America.
Dr. Obi stated this in Abuja during a collaborative and advocacy visit by the Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network, (AHBN) to NIPRD’s headquarters.
He noted that following support from government, the Institute has embarked on aggressive training of members of staff and to build their capacities, as well as equipping laboratories to world class standards.
Recall that at the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic there was an inflow of financial support both locally and from international organizations to Nigeria’s health sector to help strengthen capacity to respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics.
The Federal Government of Nigeria had budgeted and released 500 billion naira to various sectors of the economy including the health care sector which was considered the worst hit by the pandemic.
NIPRD is one of such health institutions that received this support, and a visit to its facility located at Idu area of the Federal Capital Territory reveals a drastic change from its former look, as the entire building has gotten a facelift while several equipment have been purchased or donated by partners to strengthen the medical and plant research and traditional medicine research (MPR&TC) laboratories, medicinal chemistry and quality control (MCQC) laboratories, pharmacology and toxicology (P&T) laboratories, pharmaceutical technology and raw materials development laboratories, DNA Sequencing among others.
The DG Dr. Obi Adigwe stated that his team at NIPRD is open to pan-African collaborative efforts that will yield products that can withstand competition anywhere in the world.
He listed several contributions and innovations by the Institute which were very helpful in the fight against COVID-19 transmission and management of the disease, both locally and internationally.
While underscoring the role of funding in the actualization of this dream, Obi who listed some grants NIPRD recently received from partners, appealed to AHBN to use its vast partnership to further strengthen grant opportunities for the Institute.
“Anyone who has been for the health sector in the last three years, will know that we here at NIPRD are amongst the most collaborative agencies of our kind and we always prioritise partnerships especially with like-minded organisations. That is organisations who focus on building partnerships within Africa so that we can build the capacity to expedite the harnessing of our resources to solve our peoples problems. And I am very happy that AHBN based, on preliminary analysis done by my office, falls squarely within such oranisations.
“You may also be pleased to know that AHBN is in good company because in the past three years, we have partnered with other agencies of your type and we have moved the partnerships from paper proposals to a situation where we now have tangible products and grants to justify the partnership.
“It is on record that we are the first of our kind to secure funding from Afreximbank of a better part of 1million dollars for the setup of the API concept production lab and training facility. That particular facility once the grant gets to maturity level will be used to begin to produce lifesaving APIs as well as train scientists across and practitioners Africa on how to develop and how to stimulate the growth of the API sector in our economy.
“Similarly, NIPRD was also the first of its kind to secure a quarter of a billion naira grant from TETFund as the lead of a consortium of three other organisations which focuses on the development of interventions. We are also at the various stages of grants with various bodies.
“We are also part of a consortium for the (sifocan) trial which is a grant to the tune of about 1.1 or 1.2 billion dollars alongside three other collaborators. We are looking at the efficacy and viability of factional dosing of COVID-19 vaccines.”
“I am reeling out these grants and the figures so that AHBN can know that they are in good company when they are talking to those big international partners they can be referencing those organisations I have mentioned. And again, we are working for WAHO which has also designated NIPRD as one of its Centres of Excellence in the sub region. We have several more between 6 and ten grants that we are currently engaging on.”
Responding, Coordinator of AHBN, Dr. Aminu Magashi applauded the innovations being put in place by the institute, revealing that NIPRD was one of the organisations whose activities are being tracked by the AHBN.
Magashi pledged that the AHBN will analyse and amplify the work done by NIPRD for wider visibility and attract both local and international funding.
“One of the biggest aims for coming here is to listen and learn from government agencies and also amplify the good things they are doing to a larger audience. As you rightly mentioned even though we are in Nigeria we need to spread the message to Africa because Nigeria being with over 200 million of population that is almost one fifth of the African population it means we have to spread the story.
“A lot of African institutions are emerging, the Afreximbank, African Development Bank, we have a lot of COVID-19 mechanisms. Kadijah is doing a lot that work in the AHBN which is to monitor the African Institutions that help us to do advocacy, so for example the Africa Medicine Agency, (AMA) which is part of the AU, the Africa Manufacturing Coalition and Networks.
“Just recently we organized a Webinar to look at the vaccine procurement and delivery in Africa. So these are some of the things we are doing to promote the mindset that Africa is ready to produce our drugs and also our vaccines. And that we should not be carried away by always getting donations. We should be employers of labour in producing.
“One tweet from us, we can tag the handle of all those African agencies including Africa-CDC, African Union Commission, the AU and all the agencies including WAHO. So these are the areas we are committed to work and develop some bullet points on how we can support NIPRD at the Africa level and also Nigeria as well.”
Remarks were made about the role of the late Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammad Barkindo who was described as a great supporter of NIPRD’s policy to diversify Nigeria’s Oil and gas sector to focus more on petrochemicals which are precursors to Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, (APIs).