The Federal Government has announced the indigenous development and validation of RNA Swift, a test kit for the identification of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent for COVID-19, to accelerate the capacity to test people and help effectively manage the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing a world press conference in Abuja, on Thursday, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said: ‘The RNA Swift has amazing precision for the detection of SARS-COV-2 and will be commercially available at a price that places it ahead of competitors in terms of sensitivity and affordability.’
According to Dr Onu, the RNA Swift was borne out of a need in the Agricultural sector to test Nigerian farmers and labourers. He further disclosed that in the coming months, 5 Million farmers will be tested with the RNA Swift kits from the first 10 million kits to be produced.
He described the development of the testing kit as “Nigeria’s gift and contribution to help Africa and the World fight the COVID-19 pandemic”, adding that by encouraging our scientists and innovators, Nigeria has the capacity to find solutions to global challenges.
Dr Onu confirmed the support of the African Development Bank, according to him, ‘I want to confirm to you that the RNASwift product team is in consultation with the African Development Bank for the funding of an African-wide testing programme for COVID-19 and the establishment for RNASwift production in Nigeria.’
Dr Onu said the development of the test kit, was as a result of careful planning and strategic investments of the Ministry’s departments and agencies.
He commended the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Finance, The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Sheffield University, Scientists and the Organized Private Sector for their collaborative efforts in the development of the testing kits.
Earlier, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono said his Ministry is working hard to ensure food security in the country, by supporting the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
He said his ministry will continue to be in the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, by ensuring that the newly developed testing kits are made available to test over 5 million farmers across the country.
He commended the efforts of the Federal Government in minimizing the spread of the virus
He further admonished Nigerians to look inwards, be more organized and focused so as to achieve greatness and more technological feats for the nation.
The Acting DG of NABDA, Prof Alex Ukpa, said the invention of the RNA Swift testing kit, will improve testing and bring the power of large scale and precise testing closer to Nigerians. He added that this approach will enable Nigeria and Africans at large get the needed attention to survive the pandemic.
Prof Akpa commended two Nigerian companies namely; Graeme Blaque Advisory and Cellulant Nigeria Limited for their support in the validation of the testing kit.
He further said the testing kits will be produced in Nigeria so as to meet the testing needs of the entire African continent. In his words, ‘the RNA Swift kit will not only revolutionize Africa’s PCR-Based COVID-19 testing but will also lead to expanding it by at least 50 times while reducing cost, relative to the conventional kit, by over 500%.’