COVID-19: RNA Extraction Kit, Huge Savings On Foreign Exchange-NABDA DG

Prof. Alex Akpa, Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), has said that the Nigeria-invented RNA extraction kit recently validated for Coronavirus diagnosis would make huge savings on foreign exchange for the nation.

Akpa said this in an interview in Abuja.

He disclosed that job creation and the opportunity for knowledge management were other benefits arising from the invention.

He also said the development of the technology provided solid framework for biotechnology product development for other infectious diseases such as Lassa fever.

“Moreover, as an African technology, supply to Nigeria and other African countries will be granted preference over non-regional countries,’’ Akpa said.

He hinted that the bulk of the activities around the research, further development, deployment and production of the RNA extraction kit laid within Nigeria.

According to the director-general, the RNA Swift Kit is an invention that excites and constitutes a major breakthrough for science and technology in Nigeria.

“This is because it meets the pressing national need for COVID-19 testing at a time when availability of diagnostic kits for the disease is limited,’’ he said.

Akpa noted that the limitation was not only in funds, but also on producing countries that lay more emphasis on meeting their own national needs before thinking export.

The professor assured that the RNA extraction kit implied that Nigeria, and indeed Africa, could test for COVID-19 at a large scale.

“This scale will match the imagination and operational will of member countries and not be limited by availability of kits or cost.

“Large scale testing has become an option for Africa as a result of favourable attributes of the RNA Swift, which include cost effectiveness, purity of yield, diagnostic reliability and handling safety,’’ Akpa said.

Speaking on the deployment of the kit, he again hinted that two relatively large scale programmes provided market for its commercial production.

The first was the need to test about five million Nigerian farmers and farm labourers.

“The farm worker testing programme was an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development, which aimed to deploy about 10 million units of the RNA Swift kits in about three months.

“This was the programme that inspired the RNA Swift project,’’ Akpa said.

He mentioned that the second deployment was a massive deployment planned by the African Development Bank to test for COVID-19 across the continent, tagged Test Africa Initiative.

He further said the RNA Swift required for the initiative would be met by the establishment of a production facility in Nigeria.

Akpa was confident that the Test Africa project would leverage the capacities of in-country centres for disease control.

According to him, this will also involve various private sector partners in order to ensure that an expansive, ambitious and elaborate deployment of testing is done across Africa.