UNN Establishes First Vaccine Research Centre in Enugu

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The University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) on Tuesday inaugurated a Vaccine Research Centre (VRC) for the development of vaccines for diseases that disproportionately affect Nigeria and Africa.

The centre is located at the Coal City Garden Estate in Enugu and equipped with funds from the United States National Health Institute and Belinda and Gates Foundation.

Inaugurating the centre, the UNN Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Igwe, expressed satisfaction that the centre established in 2018 had eventually taken off having survived dormancy occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged industrial strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Igwe commended the Director of the centre, Prof. Silva Anika and his team for making the project a reality and pledged that the center would help in addressing tropical animal and human diseases in the country.

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In his remarks, Prof. Anika said that the VRC would cater for training, research, development and production of vaccines for most endemic but neglected tropical human and animal diseases.

Anika said that the centre would establish collaborative partnership with national and global units to become viable and international in outlook.

The director disclosed that the research had received grants to work on the epidemiology and population genomics of African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in both human and animals which caused immense suffering and economic losses in the society.

“Through partnerships with governments, international organizations and the private sector, we intend to translate these investigations into widespread programs that will save lives and improve livestock health and production.

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“This centre strengthens our university’s traditional role of solving the biggest challenges that face Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, through scientific inquiry and discovery. It is also a major step towards self-reliance in healthcare and I am confident that with the dedication of our researchers and support from all levels of government, this centre will achieve major breakthroughs that will improve human and animal health for generations to come”.

The emeritus professor, however, disclosed that the centre had attracted about $1 million US dollars’ worth of equipment many of which required steady power supply.

Conducting the guests round the centre, a veterinarian and researcher, Dr Chinwe Chukwudi, said that the million dollar equipment could be used to diagnose many diseases including cancer through researches.

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Chukwudi, who attracted the grant, said the centre had began a pilot study on Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) known as sleeping sickness noting that the disease had become prevalent in the country.

According to her, there is 10 per cent prevalence rate in a sampled population at a hospital at Nsukka in Enugu State.

She said that 11 out of 184 samples representing six per cent were consistently positive in all assays done adding that the data suggested a high burden of undiagnosed and unreported clinical HAT cases in Nigeria.

The veterinarian, encouraged medical students in various capacities to access the facility for their studies and sustainability of the centre.

 

 

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