Using modern techniques to solve societal problems

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Professor Joy Okpuzor

By Michael Akinadewo

A professor of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Lagos, Joy Okpuzor, has called on the scientific community to embrace modern molecular biology techniques to solve major problems in humans, livestock, plants and microbes. She made the assertion while delivering the keynote address at the Hands-on Training in Molecular Biology Techniques and Bioinformatics, organised by Biotechnology Department, Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) Lagos.

The theme of the address was ‘Repositioning Life Sciences Research and Industry in the Omics Era.’

She said scientists need to reposition themselves as life scientists, and one way to do so is to seek knowledge and understanding of Omics approaches, as this will provide a solid foundation for future projects and industry placements in the field of translational science. The branches of science known informally as Omics are various disciplines in biology whose names end in the suffix -Omics, such as genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, metagenomics, phenomics and transcriptomics. Omics aims at the collective characterization and quantification of pools of biological molecules that translate into the structure, function, and dynamics of an organism or organisms.

“Before now, few Nigerian universities, institutes and private organisations had access to practical applications. Molecular biology applications are expected to be a mainstay in manufacturing of chemicals, energy and medicine,” she said. Okpuzor called for collaboration between different stakeholders, governments, academia and industry to fund research, share knowledge, resources and expertise that will lead to development of new therapies and technologies, explaining that the gap between basic research and commercialization needs to be bridged.

She reiterated the need to train the next generation of scientists and engineers that would have enormous skills to analyze Omic data. “The Omics era will change a lot of things and the young people should key into this era of Omics technology. It gives us the opportunity to interrogate our system either in agriculture or any other area.”

Director General & CEO of FIIRO, Dr. Jummal Tutuwa, represented by Dr. Dele Oyeku, the Director of Extension, said the training would enhance technical knowledge of Omics to the participants and by the end of the training, each of them must have learnt the new and modern techniques in Omics technology to be able to conduct research in biological systems in plants, livestock and humans. According to the convener of the hands-on training and Head, Molecular Biology Laboratory, FIIRO, Dr. Temitope Fadipe, the idea of the training was to increase capacity building among Nigerian scientists both in industry and academia.

“We realize the advancement in developing countries is ongoing, while Nigeria is still playing catch up because of low capacity,” Fadipe said. She said that the training was expensive and most people couldn’t afford it which is the reason for domesticated networks and collaboration to support the workshop. “With Omics technology, things we think we can’t do, we achieve them now and it’s applicable to all fields in medicine, industry, agriculture.”

One of the participants, Prof. Cyril Nwangburuka, from Babcock University said: “This is a step in the right direction. If Nigeria will progress, all the things that are happening around us now, science and research are the solution.”

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