By Vivian Onyebukwa
The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), announced ahead of the African Development Bank’s (AFDB) African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation launch, that it has completely galvanised resources and stakeholders to enable it play a crucial role in the continental initiative.
The NIPRD’s pledge is coming after the recent African Development Bank’s Board (AFDB) of Directors approval of the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.
The Foundation, will significantly enhance Africa’s access to the technologies that underpin the manufacture of medicines, vaccines, and other pharmaceutical products.
To this effect, Dr Obi Adigwe, Director General, NIPRD, told journalists in Abuja, that his Institute is fully ready to support.
He stated that the emerging AFDB’s Foundation fully aligns with the NIPRD’s objectives of conceptualvisation of strong pan-African initiatives, where it has recorded many strides, more so with the emergence of COVID-19.
It would be recalled that in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, NIPRD emerged as a huge contributor to the National and global response.
It provided the internationally acclaimed analysis that underpinned many African government’s categorical position on the Madagascan COVID-19 Organics preparation.
This analysis went viral internationally, with scientists and policy makers around the world referencing NIPRD’s seminal work on the product.
With their work, a multitude of lives on the continent were saved, Africa 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.
NIPRD for the first time in the country’s history, constituted an interdisciplinary team of over 20 eminent and erudite Professors drawn from various universities and geopolitical regions to form the National Scientific Advisory Committee (NSAC) on the verification of claims by Practitioners.
Dr Obi Adigwe, Director General, NIPRD, who convened the NSAC noted that the landmark achievement not only ensures that coronavirus cure claims are subjected to the highest international science, but that the highest relevant standards of safety and efficacy are maintained, in order to safeguard the lives of Nigerians.
“The report of the committee has now been distributed widely across the world. The Institute also leveraged on its reputation as the first African Institute to develop a world class phytomedicine from drug discovery up to phase two clinical trials, to begin work on repurposing Niprimune, its flagship immunomodulatory agent for relevant clinical studies for COVID-19”.
Earlier in 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.
They have also been involved as sponsor as well as technical partner to a number of ongoing Randomised Control Trials aimed at scientifically proving the efficacy of a number of conventional medicines currently at the Clinical Trials’ phase.
Other recorded achievements under the current DG, is the transformation of the eorkforce into a world class agency, where every single confirmed staff has received laptops and tablets to optimise their respective activities.
“Similarly, there has been a tenfold increase in local and foreign trainings for researchers and non-technical staff, which has no doubt significantly impacted on the quality of the Institute’s work and consequently improved access to relevant health and socioeconomic variables. Evidence of this emerged, when despite the challenges of the pandemic, NIPRD retained its ISO 17025 certification through remote testing, making it the first in the region to accomplish this via this model”, the DG said.
The Institute had earlier emerged as the first in the region to gain both ISO 17025 and 9001, as well as being achieving Centre of Excellence status in several thematic areas.
Recent reforms in NIPRD are however not limited to capacity building. Reports indicate that in the past three years, key infrastructure have been renovated and new ones commissioned; cutting edge equipment have been purchased; and innovative research and development projects aimed at improving health and socioeconomic indices have been undertaken.
These initiatives and many others have now rekindled NIPRD’s recognition as a world class leader in Pharma R&D by its increased statutory representation on high level committees convened by pertinent Global, Continental and National organisations. These include, World Health Organisation (WHO), West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), TETFUND, Central Bank of Nigeria, COVID-19 Presidential Task Force and many others.
NIPRD has also emerged as a continental leader in the conceptualisation of strong pan-African initiatives, as well as the introduction of cutting edge technologies on the continent, such as the use of Nanotechnology and Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery.
Dr Adigwe played a seminal role in the articulation of the Medicines’ Security concept that links local manufacturing with access to healthcare and socioeconomic development, especially in areas such as job creation, technology transfer and revenue generation.
Last month, the Institute published a seminal article on the relationship between Intellectual Property Rights and access to COVID-19 Vaccines in the prestigious PLOS Global Public Health Journal.
The publication emanated from the widespread debate generated by a world class webinar convened by the Institute in the heat of the pandemic, when Africa who did not have manufacturing capacity, was strategically denied equitable access to vaccines.
“Whilst this peer-reviewed publication is evidence of a strong alignment of the Institute and AFDB’s strategic objectives in Health Security Independence, it is also a practical illustration of the unique policy to ‘practice’ approach adopted by the Agency in all of its initiatives”.
A preliminary review of media reports revealed that senior officials of the Institute have long reiterated the need for policy prioritisation of R&D, alongside a deeper engagement of foundations and development partners, as the most effective means of achieving continental health and socioeconomic potentials.
“A strategic partnership between NIPRD and the AFDB’s emergent Foundation is, therefore a step in the right direction”, Adigwe said.