Fred Ezeh, Abuja
United States (USA) health agency, Division of Microbiology and infectious Diseases (DMID), an arm of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAIDS), has signed a non-clinical evaluation agreement with Prof. Maurice Iwu’s Bio-Resources Institute of Nigeria for the development of medical response to the fast-spreading Coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19.
Prof. Iwu disclosed the development to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, during a presentation on Monday, in Abuja. He said there was a need for concrete action to prepare Nigeria and other countries of the world for future outbreak of virus infections.
The 12-page agreement was signed by Dr. Barbara Mulach, a biologist and Deputy Director of the Institute on behalf of NAIDS, while Prof. Iwu, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), signed for Bioresources Institute of Nigeria.
According to the agreement, Prof. Iwu’s Bioresources Institute of Nigeria and the US agency would conduct further study on drugs already discovered, and patented, by Prof. Iwu for the treatment of the novel coronavirus.
In an address titled “Coronavirus: The time to prepare for the next infection is now,” Prof. Iwu noted that during the antiviral bioassays in 2014-2015, it was discovered that the compounds exhibited significant antiviral activity against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-Coronavirus).
He further explained: “I want to formally brief you about our drug discovery project which has led to the identification of potential treatment agent for coronavirus infections. The lead compound is one of the most studied natural products in history with a citation score of 1729 citations in PubMed; 1,725 citations in Scopus as accessed a few days ago. Its pharmacokinetics profile and putative mechanism of action are established.
“We are considering possible dosage forms including a combination product formulation of the three agents (Rhygyfyn) described in our patents as broad-spectrum antiviral drug, identified and developed here in Nigeria. We are set to introduce the products but our only limitation is finance.”
He thus solicited for funding to enable further research and development of a cure for virus infections that may cause havoc in the future.
Prof. Iwu also disclosed that one of the compounds in the discovery proved very effective against SARS coronavirus, stating further that “we have concluded arrangements with the Antiviral Program of the US National Institute of Health (US-NIH) to subject the compound to bioassay against the Wuhan coronavirus (Convid’19).”
He added: “It’s important to note that Covid’19 belongs to a class of viruses that are very common, some are more serious than others. The class includes the flu virus, SARS, and MERS. They are RNA viruses, which allow them to mutate easily and spread between species. SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronaviruses are more lethal than Covid-19.
“We are willing to make available the lead compounds and the phytomedicine, which contain the active molecule, a bicyclic diterpenoid lactone for possible evaluation by other laboratories with appropriate testing facility both in Nigeria and overseas.”
Prof. Iwu, had in the course of execution of a Federal Government mandated to his Bioresources Institute of Nigeria, in 2014, for solutions to Ebola Virus Disease, discovered and developed drugs for the management, and treatment, of a broad range of viruses including SARs, MERS and Coronavirus.
The discovery also led to the issuance of a Certificate of Patent to Prof. Iwu by the Registrar of Patents and Designs of the Federal Republic which in 2015 approved three patents for Prof. Iwu for the discovery of a drug which could be used in the treatment of Ebola and Coronavirus.
The Certificates of Patent numbered 005177 and 004991 signed by the Registrar of Patents and Designs, were issued to Prof. Iwu for the invention of Alstonine for the treatment of Ebola virus Disease and Coronavirus infections.”
Also on July 6, 2018, a letter with reference NOTAP/IPR/378/22 signed by an Acting Director, Technology Acquisition and Research Coordination (TEARC), Department, S. A. Ahmed, the National Office for Technology Acquisition (NOTAP) approved the presentation of three patent certificates to Prof. Iwu for the discovery of three drugs considered potent for the treatment of a wide range of viruses.
The letter titled ‘invitation to attend the official presentation of patent certificates facilitated by NOTAP to inventors/researchers by the Minister of Science and Technology (FMST), listed the three patents as: Andrographolides for the treatment of Ebola Virus Disease, Dengue Fever and other viral infections with Patent number NG/P/2015/97; Akiiluvir (GB-1) for the treatment of Ebola Virus Disease with Patent number NG/P/2015/84 and; Alstonine for the treatment of Ebola Virus Disease and Sars Corona Virus Infections with patent number NG/P/2015/85.