Finding Curative Drugs Or Vaccines For Coronavirus Is Not Bread & Butter Issue - Chinedum, Professor of Pharmacy - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Finding Curative Drugs Or Vaccines For Coronavirus Is Not Bread & Butter Issue - Chinedum, Professor of Pharmacy

       • Prof. (Mrs) Babalola Chinedum Peace

Mrs. Chinedum Peace Babalola is a Professor of Pharmacy and first female pharmacist professor of the University of Ibadan. Her research interest focus on drug analysis, PK/PD pharmacogenetics, pharmacogenomics, pharmaceutical analysis and bioethics. She is the Vice - Chancellor of Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Ogun State and the recipient of 2019 African Union Kwame Nkrumah  Outstanding Achievements in Science and Technology. The Awards was conferred on her at the 33rd Summit of the AU which held on February 10 and 11, 2020. She spoke with The Daily Crucible and selected newspapers in her office at Chrisland University.

You are so passionate about  women and girls being empowered. What is the secrete?

I'm passionate about women empowerment because when the chip are down, women bear la lot burden in the family. The burden is borne by women, children and girls wherever there is a problem in the society. Women should be able to stand on their own to proffer solutions to whatever challenges that they face. A woman should be able to take care of herself and others. 

What could be responsible for women's low  interest in sciences?

Many times, the mind set of people is to allow women to take the lesser or the less demanding profession, you find many women in Humanity than Science professions. Women are not always in the decision making levels. You need to promote the participation of girls and women in sciences because they can solve problems that affect both men and women. 

A new virus has entered the world with much of its devasting impact being felt in China. How should Nigeria prepare effectively to deal with this health emergency?

First and foremost we need to praise Nigerians for the way we handled Ebola virus. Who would have thought that Nigeria would curtail the spread of Ebola the way we did, yes, there were casualties but they were very few. Today, Nigerian is still being recognized, even at the African Union (AU) for the way we handled Ebola. When it comes to epidemics, Nigerians know how to take precautions. There is awareness in the country and people are taking their personal precautions. 
How about the government, what precautionary steps are being taken?

In terms of government input, government is doing its best. At the various airports, the government have set up various processes to detect the virus. Government is checking those who are coming into the country at the various ports of entries.

 Do we have what it takes to invent drugs for Coronavirus and other viruses?

In terms of drugs discoveries, that is another cup of tea. For you to discover drugs and vaccines, is not bread and butter. Many times, researches have been going on for years. To produce one medicine, it can take us 10 to 15 years. Although, we now have processes that can reduce drug discovery time. 

Any on going research in Nigeria on viruses  and their cure ?

I do know that there are some people working hard on viruses, we have someone who is at the Redeemers' University. He is doing a lot on viruses, he was one of the people that detected Ebola virus at that time. So he has his laboratory set up, it is set up with foreign support, I don't know whether he has any support from Nigeria but I do know that he had a lot of grants and collaborations from International organisations. 

What is the way out?

For us to discover these things, we need to empower such (research) centres. Nigeria needs to inject money to ensure that scientists are working round the clock, testing different viruses so that if one comes up, we can easily detect it, to start with. But we should go beyond detection, as a pharmaceutical scientist, when you study the genetics of a disease, when you study the properties of a particular disease or disease agent, we should use it and target medicines, molecules that can also kill it or cure it. So, we should go beyond diagnoses, we should also empower centres to be able to discover, design and develop drugs. Although, these things take time. 

What is the cost implications?

It will cost about two billion US  dollars to develop one medicine. So, Nigeria needs to think seriously about this. One of the equipment you need may cost N36million. But let us appreciate the Federal Government for starting with something, but they should find out more centres in different geopolitical zones and devote more resources. Some of these centres can be set up in both private and public institutions. We have a lot of institutes, a lot MDAs in the country, we have Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research, we have Nigeria Institute for Medical Research. Such centres should be empowered (to meet their mandate). We should not wait until emergencies come, there should be readiness every time, we have the Nigeria Centre Disease for  Control and that kind of centre should be empowered to tackle health emergencies. 

If we have all these centres and institutes, how come curative drugs or vaccines have not been discovered by any of them?

Nigeria is not lacking in platforms to work, it is just empowerment and commitment by government and the private sector. We should show more commitment and we should spend more.

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