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UNIZIK don not dismissed over COVID-19 cure claim, says VC

By Chukwuma Muanya
08 May 2020   |   4:15 am
Vice Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, Anambra State, Professor Charles Okey Esimone has refuted purported dismissal of the Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences...

Professor Esimone

Vice Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, Anambra State, Professor Charles Okey Esimone has refuted purported dismissal of the Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Professor Ikemefuna Uzochukwu, over alleged discovery of drug for COVID-19 cure.

Speaking with The Guardian on telephone yesterday, Esimone said, “Professor Uzochukwu has not been dismissed. The report in The Guardian of Thursday, May 7, 2020 claiming that the management dismissed him was erroneous and should be retracted.

“His team has not discovered a cure for COVID-19, as it is in the preliminary stages of drug discovery where they used in-silico (computer) programme to predict drugs that can potentially target the COVID-19.

“In the classical drug discovery channel, such potential drugs must be subjected to in vitro and/or animal testing (pre-clinical studies) and most importantly, clinical trials (studies in humans) before claims about discovery of a cure could be made.”

On his claim for discovery of cure for COVID-19, Esimone said, “I don’t know who authorised it because it did not come from management, but I authorised the publication by the Acting Director of Information and Public Relations (Ag DIPR).

“Contextually no cure has been discovered. It is possible that Prof. Uzochukwu was only announcing the results of their preliminary research based on the preliminary stages of the drug discovery process.

“Because the layman is not familiar with these terminologies and processes in the drug discovery channel, it is possible and easy to be misconstrued, as implying discovery of a cure. That was why we decided to further enlighten members of the public through the information sent out by the Ag DIPR.”

He, however, said pointed out that the university developed a recombinant malaria vaccine and successfully tested its efficacy in mice, adding, “We recently conducted a clinical trial on an anti-ulcer herbal remedy manufactured by Bioresources Development Group (BDG) owned by Professor Maurice Iwu.

Meanwhile, Professor Uzochukwu, who was Principal Investigator, COVID-19 Drug Design, Discovery and Development Project at the School of Pharmacy had publicly claimed that his group had identified nine existing drugs for cure of the pandemic.

He also had said the team discovered 14 phytochemicals from natural products, three N-acetyl glucosamine analogs with good binding affinities, as well as glycoprotein S and protease, being two important COVID-19 proteins, using computer-aided drug design tools.

On the clinical trials of Prof. Maurice Iwu’s drug by UNIZIK, Esimone said the clinical trial was awaiting ethical clearance from the National Health Research and Ethics Committee.