Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology, said the Ministry would give all the support it could to Prof. Maurice Iwu and his team on their drug discovery project for coronavirus.
The Minister said this on Monday when Prof. Iwu, former Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman and Chairman of Bioresources Development Group, paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.
The minister said some time ago, the ministry had given a charge to Nigerian scientists knowing they were capable of providing solutions to COVID-19.
Onu said he had tasked them on finding solutions to problems, whether regional or international, and that such should not always be left for other people from foreign nations to solve.
He stated: “That is why we said that within the resources available to the ministry, we are ready to make available N36 million to any scientist who can help us.”
The minister further said the money was to support any genuine Nigerian scientist with possible treatment for either Lassa fever or COVID-19.
Onu also said the ministry was very happy that Prof. Iwu had come to it with the “compound he isolated about five years ago”.
He further said he was happy that Iwu had already entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the US on this project as regards his patents.
Onu called on the Nigeria Academy of Science to come and assist in the project.
He noted that there was a committee set up with the best minds in this area.
He said he believed the committee was ready to start work.
He expressed happiness and optimism that the “compound” would be readily available to it for certification.
He said after being advised by the committee, the ministry would be ready to give all the support.
According to the minister, Nigeria has the largest concentration of black people in the world, the largest economy in Africa, the largest population in Africa and the largest market.
“But we believe we have some of the most intelligent people in the world, hence we should also be able to make contributions,” he said.
Dr. Olorunminbe Mamora, Minister of State for Health, who was present during the visit, thanked Prof. Iwu and his team for coming up with the identification of the potential treatment agent for coronavirus.
Mamora said: “We must start from somewhere and it is important for us to appreciate that if Nigeria must grow, if Nigeria must develop, it is Nigerians that will develop Nigeria.”
He said the Federal Ministry of Health would partner and collaborate with Iwu on the project.
Earlier, Iwu had told the Minister that the purpose of his visit was to formally brief him on his team’s efforts towards finding a treatment for Coronavirus.
He disclosed that the lead drug discovery project included the chemical isolation and characterisation of naturally occurring compounds and subjecting them to a bioassays for the identification of potentially useful-drug-led molecules.
He said the approach was the use of a network of eminent scientists and leading laboratories to target particular disease, especially neglected tropical, emergent and orphan diseases.
He also said those included leishmaniasis, Ebola virus, dengue fever virus, chikungunya virus, coronavirus and tacaribe virus.
He said he came to ask for assistance from Nigerians on the project.