The Vaccine Development efforts of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) is yielding results as its COVID-19 vaccine funded project would be ready for first clinical trial in November.
This is contained in a statement by the Acting Director, Public Affairs of TETFund, Mr Abdulmumin Oniyangi, in Abuja on Thursday.
Oniyangi quoted the Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Prof. Lawal Bilbis, to have said that they were able to make the breakthrough with the support of the Fund.
Bilbis led the team of researchers to brief the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Sonny Echono, on the progress so far recorded.
He recalled how the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged and unleashed untold hardship on humanity globally, noting that Nigeria was only saved by divine intervention since the nation was not prepared for such eventuality.
TETFund believed in us and supported us to get to where we are now. That is why we have come to give a firsthand report on the progress made so far,” he said.
Also, Dr Bashir Bello of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, in a presentation, revealed that it had become a matter of urgency for Africa to join the rest of the world in the production of its own vaccine.
Bello said it was estimated that the continent currently imported 99 per cent of its vaccines and consumed 25 per cent of global vaccine supply.
He said that this made the team to form a consortium and put up a strong proposal, with which they approached TETFund for sponsorship under its research and development intervention.
“We graciously got the support of TETFund not only in COVID-19 but also in Lassa Fever and other infectious diseases.
“This is because whether we like it or not, diseases will continue to emerge and reemerge. They don’t have international boundaries and that is why they are called pandemic.
“That was when we realised that we really need to sit up. Those producing these vaccines abroad are mostly Nigerians after all, so why can’t we do it here.
“That is why we decided to form a consortium and TETFund was magnanimous to release N225 million for the first tranche,” he explained.
He said that the team was meticulous in their research by ensuring that all the factors responsible for the re-emergence of different COVID-19 variants were considered to make sure they don’t manifest in future.
Responding, Echono, commended the team for the great feat achieved within a short time to make the country proud with the progress recorded in the vaccine production.
According to him, it is a national project, and as such, it has become a national pride.
He assured that TETFund would continue to assist the cross-cutting efforts of the researchers to ensure the achievement of the desired goal.
The project is a mega research grant and a collaborative effort involving cluster researchers from five different institutions to consolidate problem-solving research and promote innovation.
It would be recalled that TETFund awarded a total of N1,250,000,000.00 distributed to four clusters of researchers. One of the clusters, which is the Vaccine Production Cluster, got a total grant of N450 million.
The Vaccine Production Cluster is made up of researchers from the National Veterinary Research Institute Vom, Usman Danfodiyo University Sokoto, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Jos, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Lagos and National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Zaria.