Vision and Values for Biotechnology Innovation for the Institute of Genetic Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Professor Gabriel B. Ogunmola
Chairman, Institute of Genetic Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Capacity Building for Multidisciplinary Approach to/basic/medical Research
The discovery of the chemical nature of the genes and the resulting cracking of the genetic code triggered one of history’s most significant scientific revolutions. It led to the technologies for improving health and increasing genetic variability of plant resources. The techniques of recombinant DNA technology monoclonal antibodies and new types of instrumentation for manipulating DNA and proteins have truly revolutionized biotechnological approach in genetic manipulation.
The past decade had revealed a new mode of optimism that science and technology can make major contribution to the conquest of hunger and disease and poverty in our country and throughout the world. This optimism is based on the new scientific development in microelectronics, new materials and biotechnology but the prevailing view is that while the technologies needed for national development are readily available, the local capacities needed to bring the fruits of these technologies are inadequate. Our universities must come to the rescue and our department must participate.
We are proud of our heritage in the sciences having built fine institutions for scientific research, both at the universities and our research institutes. We have produced a very good crop of scientists in the traditional disciplines of Chemistry, Biology, Physics and the Basic Medical Science, and have at various times attempted to adapt the knowledge coming from these disciplines in the application to human needs in improving health and combat disease. The opportunities of being able to increase the genetic diversity of organism both in plants and animals are opening up new era of unprecedented application in health and food production. It is in the vision of this era and in the values to society that we must concentrate our efforts to a national system of innovation for contributing to our overall wellbeing, providing solution to major health problems of AIDS, genetic disease and increasing the genetic diversity of our crops to adapt to the environment and to increase excellent productivity of our fauna for better nutrition and better survival.
We have made many earlier efforts to invest in science and biomedical education and research and build human capacity in these areas across the humanity. We have established contacts with major centres of biomedical research and enter into collaborative arrangements with different working groups in order to produce the national capabilities. The research agenda of the university in Biomedical Research would need to be structured to promote collaborative programmes of research development across the University, across disciplines most especially to develop capability in Biotechnology and the integration of research agenda to accommodate and share our human capabilities.
Research efforts on genetic diseases of sickle cell has provided novel approach to opportunities of therapy through fetal hemoglobin elevation and antioxidant supplementation to increase the Resting Energy Expenditure (REE) in Sickle Cell patients. We have expressed NEF gene in new vectors to produce antigen as possible vaccine candidate for control of HIV. We would be seeking enriching genes to hasten Nitrogen utilization in the soil to manage our thin top soil. Enhance fetal hemoglobin gene expression to manage sickle cell disease and engineer novel hemoprotein for catalytic function.
The promise of new biological materials as chemical agents rests in part on the fact that they can intervene in agricultural productivity, control of the environment and causes of disease. Currently, chemical agents as drugs only treat symptoms without affecting the cause of diseases. We must now be able to produce some of these agents through biotechnological manipulation of genes to control both the diseases of plant and animal diseases in our environment and enhance wellbeing and agricultural production to combat malnutrition.
The strategies now is to go beyond eager curiosity about these goals to exploiting practical application of novel development in biomedical research and biotechnology to bring poverty to a manageable level, improvement in human health and expand new opportunity for innovation in product development to implement national priorities.
The approach must be centre on multidisciplinary research in Molecular and Cell Biology and Biotechnology using the tools of Biophysical Chemistry, Cell biology and Basic medical sciences where scientists and technologists would be able to pursue research activities at a high level at the frontier of knowledge studying the local resources and hence upgrade the human capacity in skill and excellent science. The purpose would be to channel the creative energies in the increasing the scientific capabilities of the nation in an enriched environment provided with a basic, carefully selected array of instruments, computers and a data base for the sciences in order to make research both creative and enjoyable and to contribute to biotechnology initiatives in the country
The science, the environment and the technology we all need is available and we only have to network our human potential staring all of us in the face, backing it up with a university goal that focus on national priorities.
It should therefore be the priority objective of university wide initiative in Biomedical research to strengthen the development of capabilities for research in Biophysical Chemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Basic Medical Sciences, Information Technology and Biotechnology and at the same time, mobilize the support of world research capabilities in cell biology and Chemistry of genetic materials to be channeled to assets the national capabilities in a way that would allow us to form unique teams to seek solutions to major problems facing Nigeria and other countries of Africa.