Science & technology agencies evolving strategies to curb Covid-19

Due to a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Ministers of Science and Technology, agencies under them have evolved innovative measures to help Nigeria and the world at large end the deadly coronavirus pandemic. BINTA SHAMA reports.

During the presentation of inventions by five out of the 17 agencies under the supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Directors General of each organisations respectively, defended their projects at the joint meeting of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and the Federal Ministry of Health on Covid-19 in Abuja.

RMRDC embarks on projects to fight COVID-19

While showcasing his Council’s inventions, the Director General of the Raw Materials Research and Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussaini Doko Ibrahim said his agency has embarked on projects of to help stem the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Ibrahim, Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) have been developed according to World Health Organizations (WHO) standard. These include facemasks, surgery gowns and boots, goggles, gloves etc. He added that positive feedback on these equipment’s have been received from Ahmadu Bello University teaching Hospital, Zaria and other reputable institutions.  

In his presentation, Prof. Ibrahim said samples of these equipment’s were distributed to the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), World Health organization (WHO), local and International reputable institutions to assess their quality and standard.

He further said that the raw materials used to produce these equipments were sourced locally and collaborative efforts have been undertaken with indigenous companies to mass produce these equipment’s.

“Technology that will further improve mass production is being considered and studies on reverse engineering of production processes are ongoing.

On projects of post Covid-19 he said, “the production and of Pharmaceutical Grade Starch, is being carried out to produce pharmaceutical drugs so as to reduce importation, create more jobs and locally produce much needed medicine.

“And also in the production of Caustic Soda/ Precipitated Calcium Carbonate from Limestone will serve as ready raw materials for the production of soaps, detergents, textiles and oil which will create employment and as well grow the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he added.

He further highlighted the value chain production of Sweet Sorghum, which would impart heavily on the food and beverage industry, provision of animal feed and the production of ethanol which is a raw material for chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

NASENI deepens research to curb coronavirus

During his presentation, the Vice-Chairman of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna said that his agency has carried out credible research and development on the management and prevention of Covid-19 in the country.

According to him some key inventions by the agency include environmental disinfectant and safety sprayers like NASENI disinfectant and safety tunnel U which could disinfect about 150 people per hour and is made up of safe materials that are not harmful to humans.

Highlighting the disinfectant Safety Tunnel U he said, “could be mounted at the entrance of public places, therefore disinfecting people at the entrance of public places. Other inventions include the single-chamber disinfectant sprayer, Keke NASENI disinfectant sprayer, and also disinfectant sprayers mounted on both trucks and Hilux vans. These are all locally designed and produced by indigenous engineers to sanitize Nigerian cities and towns against contamination by the virus.

“Notable among the innovations include the use of 3D technology to produce face masks and protective gear, which are of global standard and could be mass-produced in Nigeria, thereby creating jobs and wealth,” he added.

According to him that his agency has successfully reversed- engineered mechanical ventilators and is embarking on researching on advanced level ventilators to manage complicated respiratory challenges during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

NABDA taking innovative steps to eradicate Covid-19

Speaking, the Acting Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Alex Akpa said that the Covid-19 pandemic needs to be managed with innovative approaches with cutting-edge bio-techniques in testing new cases and managing identified ones.

According to Prof. Akpa, the Covid-19 does not conform to the conventional knowledge of viral infection. In view of this, he said his agency, has proposed a cocktail of interventions which includes:

“Development of reagents and inputs to support the laboratories for testing SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This is particularly important because being a global pandemic if import persists, will become limiting factors for case confirmation. Another  is  determination of prevalent strains of the SARS-COV-2 to enable efficient deployment of vaccination in due course. Strain identification will enable the availability of vital data required for efficient design and validation of COVID-19 vaccine. And also  the design and conduct of antibody testing to determine the immunity level of the populace, especially the working population. This will enable the government to generally categorize population vulnerability and specifically, delineate the working population into susceptible and resilient sects for the purpose of systematic re-opening of the economy. And finally, conduct antibody testing, especially for casual farm and logistics workers (during the harvest period) that serves as an interface between farmers and majority of Nigerian consumers, which aim is to identify carriers of COVID-19 causative agents and minimize the risk of contamination of farm produce such as cabbage, lettuce, carrot, tomatoes, pepper, mangoes and oranges etc., that are intended for the general populace and NABDA is poised to participate in the WHO Covid-19 vaccine testing programme scheduled to commence soon in Africa,” he stated.

SHETSCO laboratories set to test for Covid-19

Also during his presentation, the Acting Director General/CEO of the Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), Prof. Paul Onyenekwe, said his agency has well-equipped laboratories to test the Covid-19 virus.

On the efforts of the agency to challenge the Covid-19 pandemic, Prof. Oyenekwe said the development of aptamer-based test kits could detect the virus in less than 30 minutes with accurate results.

He also highlighted the collaboration of SHETSCO with foreign scientist to extract anti-gens to fight the virus and may lead to a possible cure in the near future.

The production of useful Personal Protection Equipment’s like face masks and goggles, he added could be printed using 3D printing technology which is available in the agency.

He further said that the test kits could be locally produced by Nano-particles which are available in Nigeria, adding that SHETSCO is also collaborating with international organizations to improve the capacity and effectiveness of the testing kits.

The testing kits, he added would be made available to the public, after it has been approved by the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and International Drug Agency.

While The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) developed a telemedicine mobile vehicle for rural areas and other related equipment to help the health sector and the government in the control of the coronavirus pandemic.

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