UNIZIK dismisses don over alleged discovery of COVID-19 drug
By Osiberoha Osibe, Awka 07 May 2020 | 4:01 am
Management of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State has dismissed Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Professor Ikemefuna Uzochukwu, over alleged discovery of drug for COVID-19 cure at the institution.
Professor Uzochukwu, who was Principal Investigator, COVID-19 Drug Design, Discovery and Development Project at the School of Pharmacy had publicly claimed that his group had identified nine existing drugs for cure of the pandemic.
He also said the team discovered 14 phytochemicals from natural products, three N-acetyl glucosamine analogs with good binding affinities, as well as glycoprotein S and protease, being two important COVID-19 proteins, using computer-aided drug design tools.
Explaing the benefits of the findings, Uzochukwu said, “These may be potential inhibitors and possible drug or lead candidates for the treatment and prophylaxis of Covid-19,” noting that his group has found existing (approved) drugs that could be used for pre-and post-exposure chemoprophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19.
But in a swift reaction, management of the university admitted that a team of researchers had embarked on the process of drug development for coronavirus, stressing, “No drug has been developed yet contrary to insinuations that the university had discovered a cure for the pandemic.”
A statement issued by Acting Head, Information and Public Relations Unit of the institution, Mrs. Chika Gladys Ene, noted that it became necessary to set the records straight over the alleged discovery of COVID-19 drug credited to it.
“Management wishes to set the records straight on the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) drug discovery credited to our institution. Our team of researchers swung into action following the announcement the disease in Nigeria.
“One of the research groups in the university that specialises in computer-aided drug discovery identified a target on the virus using computer simulation. It also identified compounds that can possibly attack the target.
“All these were done in silico (inside the computer). No wet laboratory experiment has been carried out to confirm that what was seen in the computer is possible in real life.
“In other words, the result is yet to get into the first stage of drug discovery process and neither preclinical, nor clinical trials have been carried out.
“Hence, we cannot say that a cure has been found, but there is an on-going research for the discovery of a cure. Notwithstanding, our team of researchers are committed to the progress of its development,” the statement reads.'
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HIFA profile: Joseph Ana is the Lead Consultant and Trainer at the Africa Centre for Clinical Governance Research and Patient Safety in Calabar, Nigeria. In 2015 he won the NMA Award of Excellence for establishing 12-Pillar Clinical Governance, Quality and Safety initiative in Nigeria. He has been the pioneer Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) National Committee on Clinical Governance and Research since 2012. He is also Chairman of the Quality & Performance subcommittee of the Technical Working Group for the implementation of the Nigeria Health Act. He is a pioneer Trustee-Director of the NMF (Nigerian Medical Forum) which took the BMJ to West Africa in 1995. He is particularly interested in strengthening health systems for quality and safety in LMICs. He has written Five books on the 12-Pillar Clinical Governance for LMICs, including a TOOLS for Implementation. He established the Department of Clinical Governance, Servicom & e-health in the Cross River State Ministry of Health, Nigeria in 2007. Website: www.hriwestafrica.com Joseph is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and the HIFA working group on Community Health Workers.
Email: jneana AT yahoo.co.uk