30 Nov 2020, Maseru – At a Press Conference this morning, the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Hon. Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane announced the great news that the COVID-19 potential drug compound being developed by scientists at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub has passed the laboratory tests showing it can work against the coronavirus. With the help of the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, drug samples were sent for lab tests at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) earlier this year to test whether the drug compound can cure the Corona virus.
The results revealed that the potential drug compound is active / effective against the two strains of Coronaviruses tested (SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-C0V). In addition, the results indicated that the potential drug compound did not show cytotoxicity (i.e. it is safe to animal cells) and has a high therapeutic index (i.e. it can be a good drug candidate against COVID-19).
Pre-clinical and clinical trials are yet to be undertaken to further evaluate the activity of the drug compound for use in humans. If the trials yield positive results, the drug will be introduced into the market for treatment of COVID-19, through the NUL Innovation Hub Business Support Programme.
A team of 5 scientists led by Dr Lerato Seleteng-Kose worked together to do preliminary investigations into the nature of Coronavirus and finding out potential remedies that could be developed to treat the virus. In July 2020, the potential drug compounds were tested for safety assessment at the department of Pharmacy at NUL and the results came out non-toxic.
In supporting the project, the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Honourable Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane took the drug compounds to Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria for further tests against Coronaviruses. On the 12th November, 2020 the results were received by the Office of the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology from CSIR.
The results revealed that the potential drug compound, from NUL, passed the test and is effective against the Coronavirus.
During the press conference, NUL Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kananelo Mosito (KC) explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the research and higher education sectors to the forefront of public attention. Laboratory capacity has been crucial for diagnostic testing; experts in infectious diseases, epidemiology, public health, mathematical modelling, and economics are central to national policy making and media coverage; clinical research has been vital to improving COVID-19 management; and our collective global future relies heavily on the development of an effective remedy and vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus.
”We (NUL) are leading a clinical research trial investigating potential treatments. We are working closely with the Government of Lesotho and the nation in this difficult moment as part of national and international research studies to rapidly develop new treatments and to build and share our knowledge of Corona virus”, Prof. Mosito announced.
Prof. Mosito also indicated that as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver-lining, the existence of the virus has opened a window of opportunity for universities to engage even more with society, support governments through research and innovation.
When expressing his heartfelt gratitude to the Honourable Minister of Communications, Science & Technology, the Dean of Faculty of Sconce and Technology, Assoc. Prof. Leboli Zak Thamae really appreciated the support that the Faculty of Science and Technology and the NUL Innovation Hub have been showered with by his ministry.
The Dean highlighted that the preliminary investigations were made here at NUL both into the nature of Coronavirus and potential remedies that could be developed to treat it.
“Based on the findings of the preliminary investigations, this team of scientists developed potential drug compounds aimed at fighting Covid-19 pandemic, using various chemical extracts that were carefully documented and mixed together. In July 2020, the potential drug compounds were first tested for toxicity (safety assessment) at the Pharmacy Department here at NUL, and the results indicated that they were non-toxic (safe to use)”, he affirmed.
He then pleaded with all stakeholders and funders to support the NUL Innovation Hub, the Faculty of Science & Technology and its sister faculties, and the National University of Lesotho as a whole, in order to be able to undertake research projects of this likely national or even global significance.
In his key note address, Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Honourable Chief. Thesele ‘Maseribane indicated that the initiative was also supported by the South African Department of Science and Innovation under the auspices of the joint bilateral agreement.
“The potential drug compound was tested against two strains of Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV) and the results of the tests were received by the Office of the Minister (MCST) on 12th November 2020 from CSIR revealing that the potential drug compound is active or effective against the two Coronaviruses tested (SARS- CoV-2 and MERS-CoV)”, Honourable Minister Maseribana announced.
In conclusion, the Minister cautioned that this potential drug compound is not yet a treatment for COVID-19 until it has been approved as such.
A full video of the press conference is available on the NUL YouTube Channel.