Vaccine development efforts by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) are beginning to show visible results as the fund-sponsored COVID-19 vaccine project is set to be ready for a first clinical trial in November this year.
Acting Director, Public Affairs, TETFund, Abdulmumin Oniyangi, who made this known in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, the project, which is a mega-intervention for research grants tagged “Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Development Using Innovative Technology” approach’ is a collaborative effort involving cluster researchers from five different institutions to consolidate problem-solving research and foster innovation in Nigeria.
Recall that TETFund has allocated a total of N1.2 billion to four clusters of researchers. One of the clusters, the Vaccine Production Cluster, was awarded a total grant of N450 million (four hundred and fifty million) Naira.
The vaccine production cluster consists of researchers from 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.
Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Professor Lawal Suleiman Bilbis, who led the team of researchers to brief the executive secretary of TETFund, Arc Sonny Echono, about the progress so far, explained that they were able to breakthrough through the maximum support of the fund.
He recalled how the COVIC-19 pandemic devastated and unleashed humanity worldwide, noting that Nigeria was only saved through divine intervention as the nation was not prepared for such a contingency.
He said: “TETFund believed in us and supported us to get to where we are today. That is why we have come to report first-hand on the progress made so far.”
A presentation by Dr. Bashir Muhammad Bello of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, revealed that it has become an urgent matter for Africa to join the rest of the world in producing its own vaccine as it was estimated that the continent is currently 99 per percent. of its vaccines and consumes 25 percent of the world’s vaccine supply.
He explained that this led the team to come together to form a consortium and come up with a strong proposal by which they approached TETFund for sponsorship as part of its research and development intervention.
He said: “We have graciously received support from TETFund not only in COVIC-19 but also in Lassa Fever and other infectious diseases because whether we like it or not, diseases will continue to crop up and reappear. They have no international borders and that is why they are called pandemic”
“Then we realized that we really had to sit up straight. After all, those who produce these vaccines abroad are mostly Nigerians, so why can’t we do it here? Therefore, we decided to form a consortium and TETFund was magnanimous to release N225 million for the first tranche, he added”
He noted that the team was meticulous in their investigation by ensuring that all factors responsible for the re-emergence of various COVID-19 variants were considered to ensure they do not manifest in the future.
TETFund Executive Secretary praised the team for the great achievement achieved within a time limit of making the country proud of the progress made in vaccine production.
He explained that it was a national project, and as such it has become a national pride, assuring that TETFund would continue to support the researchers’ cross-cutting efforts to ensure the desired goal is achieved.
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