BSN COVID-19 RESPONSE COMMITTEE SET TO DEVELOP ALTERNATIVE TESTING KITS

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The Biotechnology Society of Nigeria, BSN, COVID-19 response Committee, has offered to develop alternative testing kits capable of detecting antigens from COVID-19 samples, as its contribution in the fight against the pandemic.

In a statement signed by the President of the Society, Prof. Benjamin Ewa Ubi, and made available to newsmen on Saturday, BSN said it is ready to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, as well as other relevant stakeholders in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

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“As partners in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, BSN has been developing a national response strategy to the crisis to advance different intervention areas where it can contribute in mitigating the resultant disruptions and shocks, as its contribution to safeguarding our country from the deadly novel coronavirus.

“Drawing from insight and experiences of its several professionals in different fields of scientific endeavor, BSN is positioned to contribute to slowing down the transmission of the virus and its management.

“The society counts on her members with expertise in various fields (e.g. food and agricultural biotechnology, industrial biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, and medical biotechnology) and would harness their
talents in supporting national efforts towards containing COVID-19 and mitigating its impact on our country’s economy,” BSN stressed.

The Society emphasised “that biotechnological tools and approaches are deployed to achieve robust outcomes in arresting the
spread of the virus and its attendant consequences in the short and medium term.”

According to BSN, it would play key
roles in eight areas in its determined position to contribute to the fight:

* Present qualified members to undertake coordinated and reinforced laboratory testing of COVID-19, starting
from sample collection to PCR analysis.

* Galvanize BSN members to develop alternative techniques that will speed up testing of COVID-19 samples.
Besides the use of Rapid Diagnostic testing for COVID-19, key members of BSN are in the process of
developing alternative testing kits capable of detecting antigens from COVID-19 samples. These members
are willing to support government’s efforts in synergy with NCDC and other relevant authorities.

* Steer efforts of BSN members capable of developing therapeutics from indigenous natural products against
this deadly virus. Currently, various herbal therapies known to be efficacious against viral infections and symptoms of COVID-19 are being developed (and other herbal remedies have also been identified and proposed for further validation). A specific case in point is that of one of our members who has successfully submitted an anti-COVID-19 mixture to the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), for further evaluation following efficacy study of the mixture on different viruses of the respiratory tract and other organisms.

* Sensitize BSN affiliated molecular laboratories nation-wide to support government efforts of testing COVID-
19 samples. These labs could be accredited by relevant authority for rapid screening of samples. It is important
to mention that Nigeria is not short of molecular biologists, several of whom are members of BSN and are willing to contribute with their expertise towards curtailing this pandemic. For example, a team from one of BSN affiliated laboratories in Benin, is currently developing and evaluating cost effective PCR diagnostics to circumvent the shortage of functional PCR machines in the country.

* Present its members, who have begun researches in vaccine development using various biotechnology and
molecular biology techniques, to collaborate with all relevant bodies including the private sector, towards
fast-tracking the development and use of innovations to combat the pandemic.

* Make available, its database of identified members with special competencies in infection prevention and control (IPC) both at community and personal levels. These members have been mobilized to be on the standby to be incorporated into the national response team and offer their experiences in IPC, epidemiology
and surveillance, having acquired experience internationally during the earlier outbreaks of Ebola virus in
various countries in West and Central Africa.

* Support BSN-affiliated laboratories to offer relevant capacity building packages to personnel involved in the national response. The Society has been training manpower in the field of molecular biology over the years and remains willing to further enhance the country’s workforce.

* Embark on stakeholder engagement activities around generation and dissemination of knowledge products
for advocacy, risk management, foresight analysis, back-stopping exercise, peer-review processes and
preparation of personal preventives.

The Society further stated that s BSN Covid-19 Response Committee, comprised of “highly competent Nigerian scientists is in place to help our country’s efforts towards strategically containing the effect of this pandemic in the short and medium term.”

It condoled with President Muhammadu Buhari, families and Nigerians over the death of those infected with the virus and also commended the efforts of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, PTF in the fight against the pandemic.

“On behalf of the Chairman Board of Trustees (BoT), Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe (FBSN), the National Executive
Council (NEC) and the entire members of the Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN) across the Country and
in Diaspora, we wish to extend our deepest grief and solidarity to all our compatriots; the President, Federal
Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari and fellow Nigerians as the world grapples with
ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and its devastating disruptions in our country.

“We commend the initiatives of the Presidential Taskforce, PTF, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and all other stakeholders in the collective fight against COVID-19 since the first index case was reported in Nigeria on February 27, 2020,” the statement read.