MASERU – The much awaited Covid-19 drug compound produced by the National University of Lesotho (NUL) team of researchers has stagnated due to financial constraints. While there are other challenges delaying the release of the drug compound to the market, Basotho are likely to wait longer than expected before they have access to the drug. A total of M4 million is required to ensure that the drug goes to the last rounds of the preclinical and clinical trial phase before it can be declared ready and safe for human consumption.
A year ago, the NUL research team, led by Dr Lerato Seleteng Kose approached the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, South Africa to test the effectiveness of two indigenous plant species against the coronavirus. CSIR then released the results confirming that extracts of the two indigenous plants were active against two Covid-19 strains. The samples were tested against the severe and acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) as well as against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
The drug is now ready for the preclinical phase for animal testing as well as the clinical trials on humans. “It is too costly for us. The proposal that we found requires M4 million, M500 000 for the preclinical link and M3.5 million for the clinical phase on humans. “So that means we need M4 million in total and so far we do not have such money. We have already coughed out M100 000 for the initial testing processes, which on its own was not easy to raise,” Dr Seleteng Kose said in an interview on Tuesday this week.
She went on to reveal that there is a conundrum, in that the government through the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology and that of health, are unwilling to support her project, saying it has another Covid-19 project in the pipeline.
The government, according to Dr Seleteng Kose, is committed to a different project, which requires M7 million financing. The said project, however, is not only focused on Covid-19 but also includes three other components, hence the need for M7 million. “So this was not my initial goal. Mine was to look into the Covid-19 project only. They said the project that they are working on has nothing to do with mine. That is why I had to go out and look for other proposals and found out that I am going to need M4 million to go ahead with my own project which focuses only on the Covid-19 drug,” she added.