October 28, 2020

Group of Nigerian scientists led by renowned Professor Maurice Iwu have claimed to have found a potential treatment agent for Coronavirus infections.

Iwu, a Professor of Pharmacognosy and a lead researcher at Bioresources Institute of Nigeria, BION, in company of the President of Nigerian Academy of Science, Professor Kalu Mosto Onuoha, stated this at a joint meeting with Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Minister of health represented by Minister of State for health, Dr. Olorunibe Mamora, where he briefed on the new drug discovery project.

According to Prof. Iwu, the lead compound which is yet to be tested against the novel coronavirus is found to be active against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus, SARS – Coronavirus, which is a more deadly form of Coronavirus family.

He said the institute identified and patented the possible COVID 19 treatment in 2015 and now needs the Federal Government’s support to translate the compound into a drug for the treatment of the virus.

Nigeria recorded its first case of coronavirus last Friday and over 20 persons who had contact with the index case had been quarantined.

The former Chairman of Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, claimed he had been contacted by the United States government through its Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, DMID and have signed a Non-clinical Evaluation Agreement, NCEA, with the aim of further developing the compound.

He stressed that the institute is willing to make available the lead compounds and the phytomedicine which contain the active molecule for possible evaluation by other laboratories with appropriate testing facility both in Nigeria and overseas.

He recalled that the Minister of Science and Technopnolgy had earlier on 23rd July 2018 presented three patent certificates to scientists of BION which were based on discoveries from the Natural Tropical Diseases, Emergent Infections and Orphan Diseases.

The Professor of Pharmacognosy further recalled that when the Ebola virus infection broke out in 2014, the institute surprised many by providing an experimental lead compound that was identified 15 years earlier in 1999, adding the now with emergence of a novel coronavirus in 2019, the institute had identified and patented a possible treatment back in 2015.

Iwu stated that the drug discovery project was started in 1994 while he was a professor of Pharmacognosy at the University of Nigeria Nsukka and continued in America when he was a visiting scholar at the Division of Experimental Therapeutic of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington DC, USA and was reactivated in 2014/205 during the Ebola virus epidemic.

He said the institute collaborated actively with leading laboratories from different parts of the world, which led to the confirmation of the anti-Ebola virus activity of three structurally characterized compounds from Nigerian plants which were subsequently granted patent protection by the federal government of Nigeria.  

In his reaction the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnya Onu expressed the readiness of the Ministry and the Federal government to support and collaborate with BION to develop the test compound for commercial production.

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