Promote Indigenous Research Ideas, Health Commissioner tells Scientists

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– As NIMR holds 11th ICHAIR

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Prof. Isaac Adewole, former health minister, cutting the tape to commission the new biobank building of NIMR, flanked by NIMR DG Prof. Babatunde Salako, and other dignitaries at the conference.

For research efforts in the country to have optimal impact on the health of the populace, scientists must prioritise prevalent health issues within their localities, rather than concentrating on foreign ideas that have little or no local relevance.

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, gave the charge at the 11th Annual International Conference on Health Advances, Innovation and Research (ICHAIR), organised by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), recently.

Abayomi also called for increased government funding for local researchers, stressing that, without this, foreign donors will continue to influence issues to be investigated.

According to him, “Government must enable ICHAIR to conceptualise and translate research ideas into innovations, which will advance healthcare; else, the essence of scientific research will be defeated.

“Researchers need to develop research ideas within their locality and what will be of benefit to their immediate populace.

“Up till now, NIMR relies heavily on external funding, which must be in relation to external ideas. Government must provide opportunities for researchers to be funded for indigenous investigations.”

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Describing NIMR as a quaternary institution, which is equivalent to the National Institute of Health in the United States, Abayomi said the country’s apex research institute is endowed with both physical and human resources needed to carry out its mandate.

Also speaking at the conference, former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, called for a strong collaboration among stakeholders in the healthcare sector, noting that the sustainable investment and resources required to upscale current research efforts in the country can best be obtained through genuine partnership among healthcare providers.

Appreciating Nigerian researchers for their efforts in combating the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, Adewole charged them to step up their commitment, especially as fewer than 20 per cent of the African population had been vaccinated, as at October ending.

He also urged indigenous researchers to transform their ideas into innovative medicines, such as local vaccines for the benefit of the man on the street.

He said: “One of my core messages today is the need to transcend present efforts, to adding value and high quality home-grown research innovation to address our national health needs.

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“Nigerians and Africans are known for their resilience, creativity and determination to succeed when given an enabling environment to thrive. I’m optimistic that the government, the private sector, the research community and the health industry will provide sustainable resources to advanced health innovation in the country and in Africa.”

The former minister also commissioned the new Biobank Building constructed by NIMR, assuring the institute of government’s assistance in equipping the facility.

Delivering the keynote address at the event, Chairman of the 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, citing various advances made in the management of the condition.

Akanmu added that such 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 repositioned in 2021, had become a rallying point for bio-medical professionals and other healthcare stakeholders within the country and beyond.

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Salako disclosed that 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 pockets 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 home-grown innovations,” he said.

The DG, who commended the Federal Government for improved funding to the institute, appealed for more funding through the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.

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