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COVID-19: Agric ministry NABDA, AfDB partner on test kits for farmers

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To avoid risks posed to farmers and agric stakeholders if allowed to traverse the country without COVID-19 tests, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono has struck an inter-ministerial partnership with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and the Federal Ministry of Health to go into the development of indigenous test kits.

According to the Technical Adviser to the Minister on Knowledge Management and Communications, Richard-Mark Mbaram Esq, the idea is to involve private sector players in the intervention process, culminating in Cellulant Nigeria and Celplas stepping up to support the effort.

“This support enabled the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) to collaborate with a Nigerian Scientist, Dr. Alison Nwokeoji to commence scientific evaluation of possibilities of producing cheaper, ready to use test kits for Nigeria. The African Development Bank (AfDB) stepped in to support it, as did the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC),” he said.

The Director-General of NABDA, Prof. Alex Akpa, in his report following the validation exercise was quoted as saying: “This is not just a Test Nigeria Project but a Test Africa Project in the making.

“I want to thank the AfDB for its support and also commend the NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chike Ihekweazu for his overwhelming support in this exercise.”
The DG also pointed out that the RNA extraction kit was of high purity and very good quantity, highly comparable with the regular commercial kits.

In the same vein, Director, Medical Biotechnology Department of NABDA, Dr. Bartholomew Ibeh, noted that the RNASwift extraction kit was safe and free from the toxic phenol chloroform used in most commercial kits.

“The kit has higher performance and testing capacity than the commercial RNA extraction kits by at least 50 times while reducing the cost of detection by 500 per cent,” he said.

Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) and Scientist at NABDA, Dr. Rose Gidado, praised participating partners in the project.
Gidado said, “Our appreciation goes to the MD Cellulant Nigeria Ltd, Pharmacist Bolaji Akinboro and Mr. Prakash Hathiramani of Celplas who supported the validation exercise with funds. The RNASwift method is now in the public domain and can be adopted by any country to develop their own kits free of charge.”


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