UNIZIK sacks professor who claimed cure to Coronavirus

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Charles Esimone, UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor
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Management of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) in Awka, Anambra State has dismissed Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ikemefuna Uzochukwu, for claiming he discovered the cure for Coronavirus at the institution.

Professor Uzochukwu, who was Principal Investigator, COVID-19 Drug Design, Discovery and Development Project at the School of Pharmacy had publicly claimed that his group had identified nine existing drugs for cure of the pandemic.

He also said the team discovered 14 phytochemicals from natural products, three N-acetyl glucosamine analogs with good binding affinities, as well as glycoprotein S and protease, being two important COVID-19 proteins, using computer-aided drug design tools.

Explaining the benefits of the findings, Uzochukwu said these may be potential inhibitors and possible drug or lead candidates for the treatment and prophylaxis of Covid-19.

He noted that his group has found existing (approved) drugs that could be used for pre-and post-exposure chemoprophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19.

However, in a swift reaction, the management of UZIZIK admitted that a team of researchers had embarked on the process of drug development for coronavirus, but “No drug has been developed yet contrary to insinuations that the university had discovered a cure for the pandemic.”

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A statement issued by Acting Head, Information and Public Relations Unit of the institution, Mrs Chika Ene, noted that it became necessary to set the records straight over the alleged discovery of COVID-19 drug credited to it.

“Management wishes to set the records straight on the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) drug discovery credited to our institution. Our team of researchers swung into action following the announcement the disease in Nigeria.

“One of the research groups in the university that specialises in computer-aided drug discovery identified a target on the virus using computer simulation. It also identified compounds that can possibly attack the target.

“All these were done in silico (inside the computer). No wet laboratory experiment has been carried out to confirm that what was seen in the computer is possible in real life.

“In other words, the result is yet to get into the first stage of drug discovery process and neither preclinical, nor clinical trials have been carried out.

“Hence, we cannot say that a cure has been found, but there is an on-going research for the discovery of a cure. Notwithstanding, our team of researchers are committed to the progress of its development,” the statement reads.

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