Researchers at Usman Danfodio University Sokoto (UDUS) have submitted a COVID-19 vaccine candidate for preclinical trials in Nigeria.

UDUS is among the institutions contracted by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) under its vaccine development research mega-project to produce COVID vaccines within 18 months.

The institution is understood to have been tasked with designing a DNA vaccine candidate.

Other institutions are the University of Jos (Unijos), the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), the Nigerian Medical Research Institute (NMRI) and the National Research Institute of Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria.

Lawal Bilbis, UDUS vice chancellor, presented the candidate vaccine to Sonny Echono, TETFund executive secretary, on Monday.

Bilbis said that despite the challenges encountered, the vaccine candidate was produced within 11 months of receiving the first tranche of the TETFund grant.

He said the feat demonstrates the ability of indigenous scientists to solve problems using their own resources.

“This milestone reflects our experience in applying state-of-the-art technologies to rapidly develop vaccine candidates against any emerging or re-emerging infectious disease in Nigeria,” he said.

“Allow me at this time to inform the executive secretary that through the support of TETFund, researchers at this university have been able to work on many other high-impact projects that are already showing promising results.

“As I speak, we have successfully designed and built a recombinant DNA vaccine targeting all circulating Lassa virus lineages in Nigeria, using a TETFund National Research Fund (NRF) grant.

“In addition, the TETFund COVID-19 Special Intervention Research Grant has supported our study on the innovative approach to rapidly identify potential therapies for COVID-19.

“The study identified seven orthodox medicines for reuse and two herbal medicines with significant inhibitory activities against the virus that causes COVID-19.

“In fact, there are many more TETFund-supported projects, too numerous to mention, that are helping our researchers showcase their talents and skills, while at the same time helping to solve the nation’s problems. We remain extremely grateful to TETFund for their support.”

In his comments, Echono praised the institution’s efforts and output in research and development.

He called on Nigerian researchers not to give up on delivering homemade COVID vaccines.

The research project is one of four projects supported by TETFund with a total sum of N1.2 billion.

He said the goal of the project is to “strengthen collaborative research by promoting decentralized cooperation involving groups of researchers from different institutions to consolidate problem-solving research and promote innovation in Nigeria.”