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Coronavirus: Nigerian institute discovers potential drug for treatment (UPDATED)

A drug which could be a potential treatment agent for the dreaded Coronavirus has been discovered by Bio-Resources Institute of Nigeria (BION). EDITOR’S PICK: Lagos…

A drug which could be a potential treatment agent for the dreaded Coronavirus has been discovered by Bio-Resources Institute of Nigeria (BION).

EDITOR’S PICK: Lagos records first coronavirus case in Nigeria

BION President, Prof. Maurice Iwu, revealed this in Abuja on Monday when he led a team of scientists to present the discovery to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonayya Onu, Minister of State (Science and Technology), Mohammed Abdullahi and Minister of State for Health, Dr Adeleke Mamora.

“I am here to formally brief you about our drug discovery project, which has led to the identification of a potential treatment agent for Coronavirus infections,” Prof. Iwu said.

Daily Trust reports that the Federal Ministry of Health on Friday confirmed the first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, in a statement said the case, confirmed in Lagos State was an Italian citizen who worked in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos on the 25th of February.

ALSO READ: Coronavirus: Over 100 quarantined, as Italian recovers in Lagos – Commissioner

Prof. Iwu, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told the ministers that the compounds that made up the drug had exhibited significant antiviral activity against deadly SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which is deadlier than COVID-19.

“Your Excellency will recall that when the Ebola virus infection broke out in 2014, many people were surprised that our research group had an experimental lead compound that was identified 15 years earlier in 1999.

“And now with the emergence of a novel Coronavirus in 2019, we had identified and patented a possible treatment back in 2015. It is very important that we must remain ahead of these emergent infecctions through research,” he added.

Prof. Iwu said the drug discovery project was started at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was a Professor of Pharmacognosy and continued in the United States of America when he was a visiting scholar at the Division of Experimental Therapeutics of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washinton DC.

“It was reactivated during the Ebola virus epidemic and we collaborated actively with leading laboratories from different parts of the world,” he noted.

This, he said, led to the confirmation of the anti-Ebola virus activity of three structurally characterised compounds from Nigerian plants that were subsequently granted patent protection by the government.

He revealed that one of the test compounds (BION-3) has a high potency to cure Coronavirus.

He said his institute had 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.

“On Thursday 27th February 2020, the Bioresources Institute of Nigeria executed a Non-Clinical Evaluation Agreement (NCEA) with the U.S,” he said.

Responding, Dr. Onu said a committee would be set up to verify Iwu’s discovery.

The minister said the government would continue to support all Nigerian scientists to encourage them to do more.

Also speaking, Dr. Mamora said the ministry of health would partner with the scientists that discovered the COVID-19 drug.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonayya Onu said the Federal Government is confident that Nigerian scientists can cure the dreaded Coronavirus and Lassa fever.

Onu, who spoke during the final examination for the 774 Young Scientists Presidential Award in Abuja on Monday added that the future was bright for the country as Nigerian scientists were among the best in the world.

“Recently, I challenged Nigerian scientists to provide cure for the dreaded Coronavirus (COVID-19). I posed this challenge because I know Nigerian scientists can do it”, the minister said.

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