Nigeria’s Life Sciences sector receives boost

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Rakiya A. Muhammad

The Life Sciences sector in Nigeria has received a boost with the donation of an Oligo-Synthesis machine to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR).

The MTN Foundation (MTNF) bequeathed the equipment which the NIMR noted is “capable of making short synthetic DNA or RNA copies of organisms and produce genetic materials to aid molecular and synthetic genetic testing, forensic research, and applications in vaccine and drug development, nutrigenomics, local design, and development of diagnostics and many more uses in research and development.”

The gesture was in advancing MTN Nigeria’s corporate social responsibilities and interest in fostering health research in Nigeria.

The MTN Foundation chair, Prince Julius Adelusi Adeluyi, asserted: “As an organisation, we embark on projects with a clear goal -to improve the quality of life of Nigerians. In line with this, we are pleased to partner with NIMR in establishing the new laboratory.”

“It is a cutting-edge solution that allows for local development of primers to be used in the indigenous production of test kits for COVID-19 and other diseases, making test kits more accessible and affordable.”

Honourable Minister of State for Health, Senator (Dr) Olorunnimbe Mamora who commissioned the Oligo- synthesiser and Laboratory, said it would contribute remarkably to public health response, research, and development.

He extolled MTN Foundation partnership with the institute towards bringing higher research into health development. “I urge you all to support projects like this to promote equity, promptness and better
access to healthcare for all Nigerians.”

NIMR Director-General Prof. Babatunde Salako elucidated:” The Oligo
synthesiser is useful in a lot of life science experiments, especially
in genomic research, which is engine all over the world, with regard to personalised medicine and similar initiatives.”

He explained the move was to improve and provide opportunities for life scientists, researchers in Nigeria as a lot of them deal with laboratory experiments that require Oligo synthesisers.

According to him, “an instrument like that is essential to produce what we call primers and probes, which is an artificial part of a natural element.”

“So, they design the artificial part and get it produced by the Oligo synthesisers so that they can simulate the natural element.”

Salako described them as key requirements in the scientific invention pipeline. “They’re required by all scientists and researchers in molecular biology and biotechnology in the country,” he added.

“Equipment like this will put Nigeria researchers at the foremost
Lbforefront of experimental vaccines, l diagnostics and drug development.

These advancements will help to continue the ground-breaking research that Nigeria needs to make our population healthier, cleaner and safer,” the NIMR boss stated.

It was the first time they have had such equipment in the country, he disclosed, lauding MTN Foundation and MTN Nigeria for boasting Nigerian researchers’ capacities in medical diagnostics, and experimental vaccine and drug development.

The DG underscored the benefits of the equipment. “One clear advantage is that researchers can save time by sending that data and samples to NIMR.”

“We will run the result and send it back to them, regardless of the part of Nigeria it is being sent from, it is still better than sending from Nigeria to US-China.”

He was optimistic that the Oligo synthesiser would motivate the human resources to do more research and formulate more theories.

“It may appear that this donation is to NIMR alone, but I believe it is to all Nigerians and researchers in particular who will now have the opportunity of assessing it at a very short distance and time and can also move on with their experiment as quickly as possible, “Salako stressed.

NIMR gets support from the national budget in line with the country’s health research agenda priorities, but government support alone cannot suffice, pointed out the DG, hence they rely on partnerships such as the one with MTN.

“They will see the impact of this on the healthcare sector and life of Nigerians at large,” he declared. “The Oligo-Synthesis machine donated by MTN Foundation is indeed not only for research in NIMR but for the benefit of extending the frontiers of medical research and services in Nigeria and the West African region.”

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