The Federal Government, on Thursday, launched a diagnostic kit, RNASwift, for the identification of COVID-19 causal agent.
The new diagnostic kit was designed, developed and validated by Nigerian scientists.
The Acting Director-General of National Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA, Prof Alex Akpa, whose agency produced the kit, said at the launch in Abuja that it holds huge potentials for the country’s plan at scaling up testing for COVID-19.
“The diagnostic kit is a product of cutting-edge biotechnology which involves the exploitation of molecular biology to design, develop and validate a cost-effective but yet very top-of-the-range kit for COVID-19 testing,” Akpa said.
He added that the development and validation of RNASwift was also a reflection of the creativity that has gone on in Nigerian laboratories, working in collaboration with some scientists in the United Kingdom. He revealed that the kit would enable the country test five million farmers and farm labourers to ensure that the food security chain was not compromised by COVID-19.
The NABDA boss said: “it is important to mention that the RNASwift diagnostic kit is very accurate and sensitive. The validation results compare very favourably with conventional and commercially available kits for the diagnosis of COVID-19.
“This is in addition to a careful choice of reagents that are human and environmentally friendly in the development of the protocol for the diagnostic kit. In fact, the attributes of RNASwift kits make it a game changer in the design and production of diagnostic kits for infectious diseases in the face of an epidemic or a pandemic.”
He said the limited availability of affordable COVID-19 test kits necessitated the invention of RNASwift. According to him, the kit will reshape Nigeria’s testing approach and bring the power of large scale and precise testing closer to more Nigerians.
He said two Nigerian companies, Graeme Blaque Advisory and Cellulant Nigeria Limited provided the financial support for the validation of the kit development protocol as developed by local scientists.
The Ministers of Science and Technology and Agriculture and Rural Development, Ogbonnaya Onu and Sabo Nanono respectively, jointly launched the kit on behalf of the federal government.
Onu said it would be affordable to all poor Nigerians, stressing that about 10 million kits have been produced and more would be produced in the near future.