Professor Karniyus Gamaniel is the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja. In this chat with Vanguard Learning, the professor of pharmacology speaks on the role of research in economic reforms and transformation of the nation and the role of NIPRD in Nigeria’s economic growth. Excerpts:
By Ebele Orakpo
MANDATE of NIPRD: The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development was established in 1987 under the Science and Technology Act but it started functioning in 1989.
The mandate is to develop phytomedicines, pharmaceutical and biological products, drugs and diagnostics towards improving the health and well-being of the people. We are also to ensure quality and standards of drugs in circulation in the country and provide information about drugs, collaborating with relevant institutions in the country and overseas. That is the focus of NIPRD.
NIPRD & Economy: In economies all over the world, research has taken the centre-stage in economic growth. If you look at our peers, countries like Malaysia, South Korea and India, before their rapid transformation, they established and strengthened their science and technology and research institutes.
In NIPRD, the research and development component is supposed to be the driving force, the leader and the centre of activity to move the pharmaceutical industry forward. All over the world, goods and services are produced and improved on through a strong research component of the industry.
Empower research institutes: Nigeria has done well by establishing a number of research institutes, over 60 of them in the various sectors of the economy – agriculture, industry etc., but we have not empowered these research institutes to do their job. Funding has stifled their activities. We can do a lot, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector. We have for instance, moved some herbal products from herbal practitioners down to the bench and these have been commercialised and recognised by the US Food & Drug Administration.
Our products: We have other products such as Naprisan, the drug for sickle cell anaemia. It was developed by NIPRD. We have other products that are of that status which we need to translate to human use but we need funding.
Collaborations: We have organised joint meetings with the pharmaceutical industry, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), the relationship is cordial; they are represented on the council of NIPRD. The industry has the capacity but we cannot compete with a country like India which has really placed research in the right place and knit research with industry.
Even in the natural products area, India exports products to US, Europe, and Africa, Nigeria especially. The same with China. It is as a result of strengthening research.
When I visited South Korea, I was amazed at the attention given to research by government. Some of the products we use today in the pharmaceutical sector are from there. Interestingly, the pellets used to mould syringes in the syringe manufacturing company in Port Harcourt, were from South Korea. Praziquantel, a drug for worms, was developed in South Korea; meanwhile, in the 60’s and 70’s, we were at par with them!
The government has launched economic recovery and growth plan. If we really want to move forward, research is the centre because through research, you get knowledge/information relevant to production or improvement of services. Imagine if we have an anti-malarial which is scaled up for malaria alone, we would have solved the malaria problem (you work with healthy people) and improved the economy because we would export. Economic recovery depends on how healthy and happy the people are so it is a network.
This institute is a technology institute and any discovery we make is for life so if we do things right, in five to 10 years, NIPRD can begin to pay money to government rather than collecting. That is our dream.