The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) has established a Foundation, with the objectives to uplift the development and production of home-grown medicines, vaccines and technological innovations, which will greatly assist in addressing the health problems of Nigeria in particular, and Africa at large.
The NIMR Foundation Governing Board executives categorically stated that the foundation will prioritise development and implementation of mechanisms to elevate research, innovation and products/services development in healthcare, as a viable business which can address human suffering in form of diseases and other healthcare- related problems.
Speaking at the public presentation of the foundation, held at the Radisson Blu, GRA, Ikeja recently, Former Lagos State Governor and now Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who also doubles as NIMR Foundation governing board chairman, along with the 14th Emir of Kano and Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Muhammad Sanusi II, a trustee of the board, pledged to rally support in mobilising Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike to raise the seed fund of N10 billion for the development of the nation’s healthcare system through research and technological innovation in the health sector.
Fashola, who described the NIMR Foundation as a private, not-for-profit organization with financial and personnel structures designed to perpetuate and accelerate the mission and activities of NIMR, however explained that they are still quite distinct from those of NIMR, as the foundation aims to promote the advancement of medical research with a view to enhancing the health and well-being of the entire citizenry; to raise funds for research capacity strengthening activities on behalf of NIMR; to source for, receive and administer funds, and grants from funding and donor agencies that cannot directly fund government organisations; and to develop and administer activities that complement the mission and mandate of NIMR.
“NIMR Foundation has identified a mix of short, medium and long-term revenue streams in mobiliasing predictable and sufficient funding for its activities. These are: Donations (in cash or kind) from individuals, corporate bodies, and organisations in Nigeria and worldwide; endowments from philanthropists and other well-meaning individuals; grants from individuals, trusts, initiatives, local and international governments, private and non-governmental organizations within and outside Nigeria; and income from commercial ventures and investments”, the minister stated.
The former CBN governor stressed the need for Nigerians to pay more attention to healthcare indices in the country, as they reveal the true pictures of Nigerians suffering in abject poverty and diseases conditions, which call for urgent steps to be taken by policy makers in the healthcare industry.
He said: “I have always said that if we look at the statistics and you don’t think of the human beings, you don’t really put in the amount of effort which you may be expected to put to work. For instance, the simple things like the rate of inflation is just a number but when you look at the common men and women who are struggling to find garri and who are unable to eat because of the inflation, then you become more interested in finding solutions.
“So all these health figures that we have- infant mortality, maternal mortality, life expectancy and so on, we need to think of the human beings behind the figures. We need to think of someone’s mother or child, sister or aunt who has died as a result of these problems, then we should understand that we need to attach a sense of urgency to it.”
He noted that the latest World Bank Development Report has shown that Nigeria keeps going backward not just in terms of per capita income but access to education and healthcare, “even in relation to other sub-saharan African nations.”
On the rationale behind the establishment of the foundation, Director General, NIMR, Professor Babatunde Salako, noted that the foundation, though a private not-for-profit organization, has come to bridge gap in NIMR’s operations, as the institute continues to be challenged and constrained by its inability to provide funding to commission research into identified public health priorities or support training of young researchers as it is done in other climes like the MRC in the UK or NIH in the US.
He said the foundation was inaugurated to support government efforts and to position the institute at the forefront of developing the next generation of researchers for the country through competitive scholarships for training at Masters and PhD level and capacity building for grantsmanship through relevant training programmess and mentorship networks. It will fill in the gap in the area of funding for translational healthcare research in Nigeria.
“Although Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy with potentially the highest concentration of medical schools and universities on the continent, but she faces some of the worst public health challenges including the highest global burden of malaria, a high burden of HIV and tuberculosis, emerging infections such as Lassa Fever, recurrent outbreaks of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever and increasing levels of non-communicable diseases.
“Presently in Nigeria, promising juniors, mid-level and well-trained senior researchers are often brain drained out of the country because of lack of research funds to enable them conduct high quality research in country. In addition, there is little or no enabling environment to transform research into innovations, strategies and evidence for policies. It is therefore not surprising that most research works conducted in the country are not linked to health product and/or policy”, she decried.
Salako further explained the purpose and the mission of the NIMR Foundation, which is to urgently raise funds to reverse the healthcare challenges in the country through a sustained funding mechanism over the next decade that will systematically train critical mass of junior and mid-level researchers to become global leaders, who are also able to perform high-quality, cutting-edge research and develop home grown solutions to our health system challenges.
Other trustees of the board of NIMR Foundation are: Executive Director, NIMR Foundation, Dr Olajide Sobande; Prof. Oye Gureje; veteran broadcaster, Mrs Moji Makanjuola and Prof. Oni Idigbe.