Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN) has developed a national response strategy to support Federal Government’s efforts in safeguarding the country against the deadly novel Coronavirus pandemic.
Prof. Benjamin Ubi, President of BSN said this in a statement on Friday adding that the society had set up a 10-man COVID-19 response committee.
“BSN Covid-19 response committee comprised of highly competent Nigerian Scientists is in place to help the country’s efforts towards strategically containing the effect of the pandemic in the short and medium term,” Ubi said.
He said that the national response strategy was to support government’s efforts in the crisis to advance different intervention areas where it could contribute in mitigating the resultant disruptions and shocks.
“Drawing from insight and experiences of its several professionals in different fields of scientific endeavor, BSN is positioned to contribute to slowing down the transmission of the virus and its management.
“The society counts on her members with expertise in various fields which includes food and agricultural biotechnology, industrial biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, and medical biotechnology.
“(It will) harness their talents in supporting national efforts towards containing COVID-19 and mitigating its impact in our country.
“Recognising that biotechnological tools and approaches are deployed to achieve robust outcomes in arresting the spread of the virus and its attendant consequences in the short and medium term,” Ubi said.
The BSN president said that the body had offered to play key roles by presenting qualified members to undertake coordinated and reinforced laboratory testing of COVID-19, starting from sample collection to PCR analysis.
He said that BSN planned to galvanise members to develop alternative techniques that would speed up testing of COVID-19 samples.
“Besides the use of Rapid Diagnostic testing for COVID-19, key members of BSN are in the process of developing alternative testing kits capable of detecting antigens from COVID-19 samples.
“These members are willing to support government’s efforts in synergy with NCDC and other relevant authorities steer efforts of BSN members capable of developing therapeutics from indigenous natural products against this deadly virus,” he said.
Ubi said that currently various herbal therapies known to be efficacious against viral infections and symptoms of COVID-19 were being developed.
“Other herbal remedies have also been identified and proposed for further validation,” he said.
The BSN president said that of one of the members had successfully submitted an anti-COVID-19 mixture to the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) for further evaluation.
He said that the initiative followed efficacy study of the mixture on different viruses of the respiratory tract and other organisms.
Ubi said the society intended to sensitise BSN affiliated molecular laboratories nation-wide to support government efforts of testing COVID-19 samples.
“These labs could be accredited by relevant authority for rapid screening of samples.
“It is important to mention that Nigeria is not short of molecular biologists, several of whom are members of BSN and are willing to contribute with their expertise toward curtailing this pandemic.
Ubi, however, said that a team from one of BSN affiliated laboratories in Benin was currently developing and evaluating cost effective PCR diagnostics to circumvent the shortage of functional qPCR machines in the Country.
He said its members had begun researches in vaccine development using various biotechnology and molecular biology techniques.
He expressed the desire of the society to collaborate with all relevant bodies including the private sector, toward fast-tracking the development and use of innovations to combat the pandemic.
Ubi said database of identified members with special competencies in infection prevention and control (IPC) both at community and personal levels were available.
According to him, BSN is on standby to be incorporated into the national response team and offer its experiences in IPC, epidemiology and surveillance, having acquired experience internationally during the earlier outbreaks of Ebola virus in various countries in West and Central Africa.
“We intend to support BSN-affiliated laboratories to offer relevant capacity building packages to personnel involved in the national response.
“The Society has been training manpower in the field of molecular biology over the years and remains willing to further enhance the country’s workforce.
“BSN has embarked on stakeholder engagement activities around generation and dissemination of knowledge products for advocacy, risk management, foresight analysis, back-stopping exercise, peer-review processes and preparation of personal preventives,” he said.
Ubi, however, commended the initiatives of the Presidential Taskforce, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and all other stakeholders in the collective fight against COVID-19 since the first index case was reported in Nigeria.
The BSN 10-man Covid-19 Response Committee members include: Prof. Ebiamadon Brisibe, from University of Calabar, Dr Charles Adetunji, Edo University, Prof. Ebenezer Farombi, University of Ibadan, Prof. Nwadiuto Esiobu, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, U.S.
Others are: Prof. Hajiya Mairo Inuwa, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr Abdulrazak Ibrahim, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr James Igwe, Member, PRO/Liaison Officer, BSN Secretariat, Abuja, Prof. Ogbonnaya Ogbu, Ebonyi State University, Prof. Lawrence Okoror, MD, Biosolution Laboratory.
The committee also includes Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, MD, Lahor Research Laboratories and Medical Centre, Benin City, and also member, Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic Response.