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How to promote medical research, development in Nigeria, by experts

By Abigail Ikghalu
14 October 2021   |   3:34 am
Towards promoting medical research and development in alignment with national and states health priorities for the advancement of public health, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research...

Sanusi

•Fashola, Sanusi, Salako at inauguration of NIMR Foundation seek deliberate effort to invest in research
•Urge commercialisation of homegrown medicines, vaccines, technologies to address health problems

Towards promoting medical research and development in alignment with national and states health priorities for the advancement of public health, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos, on Tuesday, inaugurated its Foundation.

Chairman, Incorporated Trustees for NIMR, and Minister of Works, Housing and Environment, Barrister Babatunde Fashola SAN, at a media parley held in Lagos, said Nigeria is at precarious state without a deliberate effort to invest in research. According to him, “The country is meaningless without NIMR and other research institutes. We are looking at raising N10 billion to meet the goals of the Institute.”

Fashola, who is a former Governor of Lagos State, added: “NIMR Foundation has the mandate to build and expand capacity for translational research among early career investigators and promote innovation, development and commercialisation of home-grown medicines, vaccines and technologies to address the health problems of Nigeria in particular, and Africa at large.

“The Foundation will do everything that NIMR is currently doing and should be doing, given the broad mandate imposed by the Law establishing the Institute back in 1977 from a service perspective. The differentiating factor is that the Foundation will utilise resources mobilised from mostly the private sector rather than depend on funding from government as NIMR does. In addition, the Foundation will not seek to own laboratory, research or training facilities but will leverage on use of facilities at NIMR and other partner institutions.”

He said given the source of funding and the need to demonstrate value for money, NIMR Foundation will prioritise development and implementation of mechanisms to elevate research, innovation and products/ services development in health care as a viable business, which can address human suffering in form of diseases and other health-related problems and become a significant revenue stream contributing to the economic productivity of our nation.

Fashola urged government to invest in research particularly in the medical sector, as every human activity is dependent on sound health.

Also speaking at the event, the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (Muhammadu Sanusi II) called for the translation and implementation of research works into real- time usable products, saying, “Supporting local researchers is paramount for more innovation and development. We call for proper management, administration and accountability of both human and material resources and transparency.”

A member, Board of Trustee (BoT) – NIMR, Prof. Oni Idigbe, assured that the focus of NIMR would be on innovations and products development in partnership with Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), higher institutions, research institutes and other renowned medical researchers. “We shall provide enabling environment and incentives for health researchers,” he reiterated.

Director General (DG)/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Saloko, said a sustainable funding in the next decade as well as prudent administration and management are imperative for NIMR to achieve its mandate.

According to him, basic, applied and operational researches shall be advanced for the betterment of Nigerians. “Nigeria needs to do more on medical research. We shall train young medical practitioners, mentor, promote innovation, academic research and every Nigerian shall be a beneficiary of the products of our works,” he assured.

Salako said NIMR shall synergise with the private sector to translate evidences of research to tangible products, noting that it would sponsor personnel and projects and give awards across the country, provided such efforts promote public health.

A professor of Psychiatry at the University of Ibadan, Oye Gureje, who is also a member of the BoT, said NIMR is prepared to meet future challenges in the medical profession, as they give top priority to capacity building through learning, training and retraining.

He said: “We don’t want to be carried unaware in the future. So many countries prepared for both expected and unexpected eventualities and contingencies like the global pandemic, but countries that didn’t prepare were taken unawares.

“We want to be proactive and wait for any eventuality, that is why we must dig deeper into those diseases which are not yet known. Drugs discoveries, road and water traffic injuries management, early diagnosis and detection, substance abuse control, building a responsible health system, global competitiveness and innovation, equitable and fair treatment for every Nigerian, nutritional food development and security, management of non communicable diseases among others are priority areas for NIMR,” he said.

A veteran broadcaster and science and research advocate, Mrs. Moji Makanjuola, who was also present at the event said: “Research is very important in ensuring that we have a healthier grounds for which Nigerians can access and demand for health.

“What is most important is that we have some peculiarities as blacks which hitherto are not addressed by lots of western medical interventions.
“We need to start doing this, using research as the main way forward.”