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NBRDA’s Vital Role In Nigeria’s Economic Progress

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The director-general, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha.
The director-general, National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha.

The enactment of the NBRDA Act by former President Muhammed Buhari has positioned the National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency (NBRDA), under the guidance of Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, as a crucial organisation in propelling Nigeria’s biotechnology and development endeavours.

In the core of Nigeria’s drive for economic progress and sustainable development, NBRDA has emerged as a beacon of innovation, steering the nation towards self-reliance, agricultural transformation, healthcare advancements, environmental sustainability and industrial expansion. Through strategic initiatives and forward-thinking leadership, NBRDA’s role as a key catalyst of economic growth has propelled Nigeria to the forefront of cutting-edge biotechnological advancement, fostering sustainable development and economic resilience.

Agricultural Revolution

At the forefront of NBRDA’s contributions to Nigeria’s economic development is its pivotal role in revolutionising the agricultural sector. Through the application of biotechnological innovations, NBRDA, in collaboration with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) and African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), has facilitated the development of high-yielding, disease-resistant crop varieties, thereby enhancing agricultural productivity and ensuring food security. Nigeria’s transgenic cowpea, the world’s first genetically modified Pod-borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea, is revolutionising the nation’s food production. Besides improving nutrition, it protects the environment by significantly reducing intensive applications of insecticides, saving the nation substantial money spent on importing pesticides and increasing yield by up to 20 per cent.

With the acceptance of genetically modified (GM) beans, the pod borer insect-resistant variety, Nigeria can eradicate hunger and malnutrition in the country. Similarly, the commercialisation of Biotech Cotton (Bt cotton) is transforming the nation’s cotton industry. Jobs are being created, wealth generated, ginneries reactivated and Nigeria will be able to export cotton to other countries worldwide, becoming a global trade player. The newly released transgenic insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize varieties known as TELA Maize will lead to a substantial reduction in pesticide use, benefiting humans, livestock and the environment. It will also improve crop yield and boost food security in Nigeria. Other transgenic crops in the pipeline for commercialisation include HT soybean, among several others. By introducing cutting-edge techniques, NRBDA has empowered farmers, improved livelihoods and boosted the nation’s agricultural output, contributing significantly to economic growth.

The agency’s initiatives on the genetic transformation of livestock through artificial insemination for milk and meat improvement across the country will enhance Nigeria’s dairy industry for economic development. This will also boost the immunity and nutritional value of children in the country. The overall goal of this flagship project is to develop genetic selection technologies for increasing the meat and milk production of indigenous cattle up to 15 liters per cow per day. This project comes with many advantages and will address some of the issues hindering livestock development in the country. The economic impact of the dairy industry is enormous, ranging from employment opportunities to increasing the nation’s GDP. With this development, the agency will be able to consolidate Nigeria’s leadership in Africa’s biotechnology space and launch the nation into the stratosphere of global economic players.

Healthcare Breakthroughs

In addition to its impact on agriculture, NBRDA has spearheaded advancements in healthcare through biotechnological interventions. The agency has produced COVID diagnostic kits and has been instrumental in research and development efforts aimed at combating prevalent diseases, addressing public health challenges and promoting access to affordable medical solutions. NBRDA, in collaboration with other stakeholders, identified three candidate drugs to be repositioned and repurposed for the treatment and eradication of Lassa fever. Vaccine technology is in the pipeline. By fostering partnerships and driving research in areas such as vaccine development, disease diagnostics and biopharmaceuticals, NBRDA seeks to improve health outcomes, stimulate economic activity within the healthcare sector, positioning Nigeria as a hub for medical innovation and expertise.

Environment

A bio-digester has been developed by the agency for a cleaner environment and efficient waste-to-wealth and energy technology. These bio-digesters will aid national growth and accelerate the socio-economic well-being of Nigerians and Africans. With the epileptic power supply experienced across the country, households can acquire small units of bio-digesters for use with a reasonable amount of electricity generation for small domestic appliances.

NBRDA Journal of Biotechnology

In his efforts to champion innovation and research for national growth and make Nigeria a key player in biotechnology research, Mustapha launched the maiden edition of the NBRDA Journal of Biotechnology on 8th September 2023. The journal, a major milestone in the field of biotechnology research and development in Nigeria, provides a platform to drive innovation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing in the biotechnology industry. This will not only amplify the groundbreaking work being conducted in biotechnology but also inspire future discoveries and advancements. The National Journal of Biotechnology Research will be an invaluable resource for researchers and stakeholders worldwide.

Industrial Biotechnology

The agency has helped meet a critical need in Nigeria by identifying indigenous bacteria as a starter culture for yogurt and other dairy uses. In addition, thermal-resistant yeast was developed for bioethanol production, bakery and other food beverages.

Capacity Building and Knowledge Transfer

NBRDA has played a pivotal role in fostering a culture of innovation and knowledge transfer. Through capacity building programmes, collaborative research initiatives and the dissemination of scientific expertise, NBRDA has empowered a new generation of scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs. By nurturing a vibrant biotechnology ecosystem, NBRDA has laid the groundwork for sustained economic growth, driving job creation, fostering entrepreneurship and positioning Nigeria as a global player in the biotechnology field.

National Bioethics Committee (NABEC)

In addressing bioethical issues in the country and safeguarding the dignity, rights, safety, and well-being of citizens, a National Bioethics Committee (NBC) was inaugurated with NBRDA as the focal agency and its director-general as chairman. The rationale for the establishment of a National Bioethics Committee is hinged on the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The committee will foster ethical standards and promote national values in Nigeria.

Young Researchers Forum

The Young Researchers Forum (YRF) represents a visionary initiative spearheaded by the director-general to foster the next generation of biotechnologists and researchers in Nigeria. The YRF serves as a platform for young talents to collaborate, exchange ideas and engage in cutting-edge research projects under the mentorship of seasoned professionals. By nurturing young minds and providing them with opportunities to explore their potential, NBRDA is sowing the seeds for future innovation, scientific breakthroughs and economic prosperity in the biotechnology sector. Through initiatives like the YRF, NBRDA is not only investing in the development of human capital but also ensuring the continuity of its mission to drive sustainable development and economic growth in Nigeria.

Omozuwa is the press secretary to the director-general, NBRDA. She wrote in from Abuja and can be reached on toyinomozuwa20@gmail.com.

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