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We’ve discovered compounds to combat malaria parasites – Unilorin Don

A beneficiary of the Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP-B) Project sponsored by World Bank to carry out research on malaria parasites, Obaleye says he…

A beneficiary of the Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP-B) Project sponsored by World Bank to carry out research on malaria parasites, Obaleye says he has discovered over 300 compounds  which are anti-malaria derivatives and have been tested on microbes and animals with the prospect of making them available for public consumption. He spoke with Daily Trust about the project and the next step towards commercialising the compounds.

What is STEP-B all about?
The project I am currently embarking upon has to do with the one that is supported by STEP-B. STEP-B released a huge amount of money of recent for us to buy equipment that we would use for our projects. The problem we are facing in this country is lack of research facilities.

How did you become a beneficiary of this STEP-B project?
It was announced by the university that there is something called STEP-B and that all of us should apply for it. I have been applying for something like this before in this country but to no avail. So when they asked me to apply, I didn’t want to wait until the last day for submission to Abuja, I was asked to try again-which I did.
 I had to write it in conjunction with some of my colleagues and fortunately out of the 23 people who applied from here, two of us were picked-myself and Professor T.S Ibiyemi from Engineering. Since then we have been working on this project.
 My own area is different from that of Professor Ibiyemi. My own has to do with synthesis of some novel anti-malaria metal drug complexes; that is we are looking for some drugs that can combat malaria.
 You know some people are forming resistance to the current anti-malaria drugs that are on the market, so people are trying to get more active anti-malaria drugs, that is why we are looking into this area. And you know much of the problems in Africa is malaria.

What is the outcome of the research so far?
The outcome is very successful and very interesting. X-ray crystallography technique is one of the equipment we normally use to x-ray the structure of solid compound and most of my compounds that I prepare from this lab are solid in nature; they are inorganic and solid in nature. The ones we can fully characterise and call our compounds are about 300 but we have so many of them.
I don’t want to call it drug for now because we still have a long way to go but I just want to call them active compounds-potential compounds that you can use as drugs very soon. They would become drugs that would be available on the market but there is still a long way to that because you don’t just produce something in your lab and just go ahead to test it on humans. What is the by-product? What is going to be the end result? All these things must be looked into critically and must be supported by the international world and by other scientists.

So what is the potency of these anti-malaria compounds you have discovered?   
They are very potent. We have a lot of them that are highly potent compared with the raw materials. If they are not potent, then what is the success? Where is the success from? It means that we are limiting our production only for chemical environment or for laboratory environment which means that we want to use them only for their chemical reaction.
 And this is not only for chemical reaction, it is something that has to do with healing or to combating  parasites,  which is our focus, to combat parasites, something that will help the masses, not only for scientists. All these things require a lot of money.

You have tested these compounds on animals and microbes, what is the outcome?
Yes I have tested them on microbes and animals but I am still continuing with animals because there are different categories of animals, and so far we are getting good result.

What animals did you experiment on?
We experimented on an albino rat and sheep.  We want to continue with goat and sheep to be sure. After we ascertain that there is no negative effect then we can now connect with the outside  world on how to use it on humans. But we have to have something concrete to present to them.  Once there is no any negative effect in that direction, then we can move forward. But the point is that we need money, we need a catalyst like money and encouragement. We want the country to encourage us and we want our leaders to encourage us.  

Is it to complete the research or what?
Every research needs money. We need funds. That is why universities give some little funds but there is little the university can do. Even the whole budget of a university is not enough for a person to use as a research grant. If you go overseas, you would know what I am talking about.

In the course of carrying out this research, what were the challenges you faced?
Yes maintenance is one of the challenges. The maintenance aspect of it is very important. You know when you acquire equipment like this and you cannot maintain it, then there would be problems. So for us to now ask somebody from outside to come and repair our equipment is not good, it is not the best. You can get people trained for it and that would help us.

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