The director-general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, has revealed that the agency is exploring emerging vistas of technological innovation for national transformation.
Speaking during the maiden edition of the NABDA’s annual media chat today (December 15) in Abuja, he maintained that in keeping with the agency’s mandate and vision, it has entered into collaborative partnerships, both nationally and internationally, to develop Nigeria’s biotechnology sector and make the nation Africa’s foremost techno-scientific innovation hub.
“At NABDA, we are persuaded that Nigeria’s transition to a knowledge-based economy is a task that cannot be achieved by researchers, scientists, technologists and public policymakers without the strategic input of media practitioners. Hence, we keep exploring innovative ways to deepen our mutually beneficial relationship with the media.
“As an agency, we recognise the gap between research institutions and the industry. As you know, this gap also exists between the gown and the town. To bridge it, we have placed a due premium on stakeholders’ engagements and continue to forge synergistic inter-agency cooperation. Our efforts in this wise have led to the signing of operational Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with state governments, universities, private sector players and some international organisations. For example, to ensure equitable access to sustainable electricity supply to rural communities, we recently signed an MoU with Rural Electrification Agency (REA). This will enable us to use BEGS Digester, an innovative made-in-Nigeria technology to convert bio-waste into electricity.
“Also, in October, Nigeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kingdom of Morocco for research and development in biotechnological products and processes, including the production of bio-fertiliser and bio-fungicide. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation signed on behalf of the Federal Government, while RAHAD Global Investment Limited signed on behalf of Morocco.
“The agreement, which is an outcome of President Muhammadu Buhari’s state visit to Morocco in 2018, covers a variety of research and development efforts into numerous biotechnological products. These products and processes include portable water and wastewater treatment, disinfectants, gas treatment, reduction of sulphur dioxide, soil biodegradation, sulphur reducing bacteria, application of stem cells for diabetics and cancer-related diseases, among others,” he said.
Mustapha further said NABDA is working with the Cuban Embassy, World Health Organisation (WHO) and other relevant institutions in the country for the basic production of vaccines.
“Amidst COVID-19 challenges, we are harnessing biotechnology innovation for economic recovery and sustainability, particularly concerning vaccine production, test kits, DNA fingerprinting and enhanced drug production,” he stated.
Speaking of breakthroughs in the development of biotechnology products, the NABDA boss said it has successfully commercialised two genetically modified crops – Bt cotton and Bt cowpea, pod-borer resistant cowpea otherwise called ‘SAMPEA 20-T’.
He listed other products underway in Nigeria to include herbicide-tolerant Bt soybean, transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize variety, Bt maize – popularly called ‘TELA Maize’, genetically modified to resist insects such as the fall armyworm (FAW), amongst others.
“Other key projects and success stories of the agency include the development and commercialisation of indigenous yoghurt starter cultures and indigenous thermo-tolerant yeasts for the production of second-generation bio-ethanol. These will aid national growth and accelerate the socio-economic well-being of Nigerians and Africans.
“In addition, trans-disciplinary research conducted in our laboratories would lead to cures for human diseases, improvements to livestock quality and new technologies with applications to medicine, agriculture, environment and industry. This is built around skills and competencies in genetics, biochemistry, genomics and bioinformatics,” he added.
The NABDA helmsman reiterated the agency’s commitment to developing exemplary models of citizen-centric, transparent and accountable communication, which is central to effective stakeholders’ engagement and deepening of democratic ethos.