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Govt. partners Belgian firm on biotech

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By Abraham Adekunle

Minister says partnership seems to provide universal health coverage in Nigeria.

In a development aimed at revolutionizing Nigeria’s healthcare sector, the Nigerian government has entered into a strategic partnership with Univercells SA, a prominent Belgian public limited liability company specializing in biotechnology. This partnership marks a crucial milestone in Nigeria’s quest to enhance healthcare delivery, develop new biotech capabilities, and achieve universal health coverage for its citizens. The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, made the announcement on Tuesday, highlighting the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nigerian government and Univercells SA in Brussels. This MoU underscores the commitment of both parties to collaborate in leveraging biotechnology to address critical healthcare challenges and improve access to essential medical products.

Mr. Pate emphasized that the partnership with Univercells SA is a strategic move aimed at establishing robust infrastructure, enhancing local research and development capabilities, and facilitating the manufacturing of medicines crucial for both human and animal health in Nigeria. He described the agreement as a significant step forward in the government’s efforts to save lives and ensure affordable healthcare for all Nigerians. The collaboration with Univercells SA comprises several subsidiaries, including Unizima SA, Quantoom Biosciences, Exothera, and RLM Consulting. Through this partnership, Nigeria seeks to accelerate the development of its biotech sector, revolutionize the availability and affordability of essential biotechnology products, and create opportunities for job creation and economic growth within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

Benefits of the partnership and the need for collaborative efforts.

Pate highlighted the alignment of this partnership with President Bola Tinubu’s initiative to unlock Nigeria’s health value chain and enhance the nation’s capacity for domestic production of life-saving medicines, vaccines, and biologics. The collaboration is part of a broader strategy to transform Nigeria’s health product manufacturing ecosystem and drive innovation in the healthcare sector. Emphasizing the importance of collaborations, Mr. Pate reiterated the government’s commitment to working with a diverse range of domestic and international partners to reform and strengthen Nigeria’s health sector. This collaborative approach is crucial for achieving the administration’s goals of improving governance, enhancing healthcare services, and promoting medical industrialization in the country.

He underscored the significance of delivering preventive, promotive, and curative healthcare services at primary healthcare centres and hospitals nationwide, emphasizing the role of properly trained health workers in delivering quality health outcomes. Additionally, Mr. Pate outlined priorities such as unlocking health value chains, creating job opportunities, and fostering sustainable growth in the health and pharmaceutical sectors. President Bola Tinubu‘s administration has articulated a clear vision for revitalizing Nigeria’s health system and ensuring access to quality healthcare for all citizens.

President Tinubu’s Vision for Nigeria’s Health Sector.

Further, the administration’s health sector renewal investment initiative, unveiled in 2023, focuses on enhancing physical infrastructure, equipping frontline health workers, and increasing grants for the healthcare sector in the 2024 budget. President Tinubu has pledged to prioritize investments in healthcare infrastructure, training for health workers, and technological advancements to improve healthcare delivery across the country. The administration’s commitment to medical industrialization and job creation underscores its dedication to transforming Nigeria’s health landscape and addressing key challenges in the sector.

So, the partnership between Nigeria and Univercells SA is part of a broader strategy to harness the potential of biotechnology in addressing healthcare challenges and promoting economic growth. Biotechnology encompasses a wide range of scientific disciplines, including genetics, molecular biology, and bioinformatics, and holds immense promise for advancing healthcare solutions. One of the key objectives of the partnership is to enhance Nigeria’s capacity for local research, development, and manufacturing of medicines, vaccines, and biologics. This includes leveraging advanced biotechnological processes to produce high-quality and cost-effective medical products that meet international standards.

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Furthermore, the collaboration aims to create a conducive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship in the biotech sector. This involves supporting start ups, fostering collaboration between academia and industry, and promoting knowledge transfer and skills development in biotechnology-related fields. The partnership also aligns with global efforts to promote sustainable development goals (SDGs) related to healthcare, innovation, and economic empowerment. By leveraging biotechnology, Nigeria can address critical health challenges, improve healthcare access and affordability, and contribute to the growth of a knowledge-based economy. Moreover, the collaboration with Univercells SA opens doors for technology transfer, capacity building, and knowledge exchange between Belgium and Nigeria. This exchange of expertise and best practices is essential for building a robust biotech ecosystem and ensuring the long-term success of healthcare initiatives in Nigeria.

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