For research in the Nigerian healthcare sector to be strengthened and beneficial in improving citizens’ wellbeing, there is need for strong collaboration among stakeholders, Professor Isaac Adewole, former Minister of Health, has said.
He maintained that sustainable investment and resources are required to upscale the current research efforts in the country, which can be obtained through genuine partnership among healthcare providers.
Adewole, who was the Chairman at the 2022 Annual International Conference on Health Advances, Innovation and Research (ICHAIR), organised by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), made the remarks on Tuesday in Lagos, urging scientists in the country to come together and work in teams for the progress of healthcare delivery.
While appreciating Nigerian researchers for their efforts in combating the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, he called for more dedication on their part, as he decried the meagre number of Africans vaccinated as at October ending, saying less than 20 per cent of the African population has been vaccinated. He thus urged them to transform their research ideas into innovative medicines such as local vaccines for the benefit of the man on the street.
According to him: “One of my core messages today is the need to transcend present efforts, to adding value and high quality homegrown research innovation to address our national health needs.
“Nigerians and Africans are known for their resilient, creativity and determination to succeed when given an enabling environment to thrive. I’m optimistic that the government, private sector, research community and the health industry will provide sustainable resources to advanced health innovation in the country and Africa.
The former minister also commissioned the new Biobank Building constructed by the institute, as he assured them of government’s assistance in equipping the facility.
In his address at the international conference, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, rallied government support for NIMR, which will enable the institution conceptualise and translate research ideas into innovations that would help advance health delivery.
Describing NIMR as a quaternary institution, which is equivalent to the National Institute of Health in the U.S, he said the apex research institute in the country is endowed with both physical and human resources needed to carry out its mandate. He also harped on the need for the institute to generate local funding, as foreign grants may hamper its concentration on indigenous research.
He said: “NIMR is the quaternary institute and this is equivalent to the National Institute of Health in the U.S and I hope the federal and state governments will recognise NIMR for what it is. Government must do more to support NIMR in the areas of research that will proffer solutions to our health problem as a nation.
“Up till now, the institute relies heavily on external funding, which must be in relation to foreign research. Most of the grants attracted to the institute are foreign grants and there are string attached to these grants, but if they are internally generated, it will focus more on our problem.
“Government must provide opportunities for local research to be conducted in the country”.
Abayomi also commended NIMR on the commissioning of the new biobank facility, as he mentioned the importance of the building to citizens. He said biobank is a key element in research process, which explains why Lagos was able to over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delivering the keynote address, National Task Team on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), Prof. Alani Akanmu, who spoke on the topic “The Future of HIV”, traced the emergence of HIV/AIDS in stages since 1983, with lots of advances made in the management of the condition, but arrived at a cheering conclusion that there is a ray of hope for HIV, as cure is possible with ARV.
Akanmu also said that advances were made through research to reduce the viral load of HIV over the years globally.
Speaking earlier, the Director General of NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako, said the conference which was initiated in 2011 and reposition in 2021 had become a meeting for bio-medical professionals and stakeholders within the country and beyond.
Salako said the institute had made good progress in developing diagnostic kits which include COVID-19 and rapid molecular test kits, yellow fever and monkeypox test kits among others.
“This year ICHAIR marks our expansion in reach and scope and content, despite the advances, innovations and public health outlook made in the containment of COVID-19 there have been other health concerns globally.
“One key expectations before the end of this conference is to identify pocket of excellence in the country and deliberate on how research innovations and output can enhance health.
“We hope the government will initiate policies that can catalyse the market uptake of homegrown innovations,” he said.
The DG commended the Federal Government for improved funding to the institute, while appealing to the government for more funding through the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.