Sunday Vanguard was guest at the processing facility of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION), manufacturers of INTERCEDD HEALTH PRODUCT (IHP), at Umuna, Okigwe, Imo State which says its herbal drug is potential cure for COVID-19.
Bioresources Development Group (BDG), which houses other centers, was founded by Professor Maurice Iwu, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The factory was commissioned in 2016 and has, since inception, been producing health boosting herbal products. Production and Facility Manager, Emmanuel Obasi, who took Vanguard correspondent round the facility, spoke about the impact of the production unit towards the discovery of drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 among other things. Excerpts:
This center is an arm of the big umbrella that covers all the organisation of the Bioresources Development Group that include the International Center for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD) Research Center at Nsukka; the marketing arm, headquartered at Enugu with branches in every state in Nigeria; Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) here at Umuna, Okigwe; the BION Agro Farm, an arm of the company that takes care of farming of our raw materials situated in four locations at Olabucha, Benue State, Okigwe, Imo State; Kuje in Abuja and Adani in Nsukka, Enugu State.
Here at Umuna, Okigwe, we apply our research findings in the reproduction of natural medicine justified as efficacious for the management of different human ailments including drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 which is undergoing clinical trial.
Basically, our materials are herbs and fruits produced and sourced locally, and the major being bitter cola, bitter leaf, hibiscus (zobo) leaves, coconut among others. In our farms, we grow these materials organically to our specifications without chemical and fertilizer. We take cognizance of ‘Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)’, and ‘Good Agricultural Practice (GAP)’. This is one of the standards existing in our raw material production.
Most of the raw materials are grown in our farms and few sourced in the open market. For instance, coconut in our farm is not enough for the quantity of herbs we produce. We target organic farmers and we are in collaboration with Organic Farmers Association of Nigeria for this purpose.
Here, based on the kind of product we handle, we produce in units that meet demands, not in tons. We have three departments: Tea production, body care and virgin coconut oil. In the tea department, we produce several lines of tea ranging from IHP Detox Tea, IHP Physogen Tea, Vernonia Ocimum Tea, Ganoderma Coffee, Moringer Tea, Erovit Tea and Tumeric Tea. Others in this range are drugs in capsule form for health boosting.
The virgin coconut oil in liquid form is effective in managing diabetes, sugar level control immune boosting among others. Our oil is cold-pressed and very crystal in nature. With the cold press method, we retain the chemical ingredient that is needed for these treatments, unlike heated ones. The purity and content of the oil is pure medicinal.
We also produce the virgin coconut oil used in cooking edible foods. This particular oil called the ‘IHP Cooking Oil’ doesn’t go through the medicinal process. It is pressed basically for cooking and currently trending in the market. Although the cooking oil is produced at a reasonable quantity, our interest lies on the medicinal quality that we are known for.
The body care department produces body cream and hair products. These products are pure and natural and we don’t use synthetic chemicals. Everything we do here is backed by science through research and certification by various units.
During the processing stage, we make sure that whatever we introduce as a finished product goes through sterilization at the quality control unit to make sure it is microbial free. We have the chemistry and microbiology department that serves as policing unit to check and certify everything we do. The rigorous process tells why our unit production is on a scale that does not reflect mass production like any other herbal product seen in the local space.
At the tea section, our organisation is playing a vital role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria. Our IHP Detox Tea currently going through clinical trial by NAFDAC promises to be a good remedy for containing the disease. It contains pharmaceutical ingredients that can eliminate the virus. We are also going into production of a normal drug which contains pure active pharmaceutical compound but with contents that can be traced to the natural source.
This is ongoing with the support of our partners in the United States. We have another line of product in the making that will commence clinical trial soon. These products will be packaged in capsule form while IHP Detox Tea is in tea bag. They are not vaccine products. Our products de-emphasizes the use of vaccine and are meant to eliminate instead of immunize. We are dealing with a new variety of virus now and the best form of treatment is elimination.
Journey so far
Since inception, we have been moving very fast in our production. Many products that we produce here have increased in margin as demand increases. The marketing and distribution of our products is rapidly high and we have created markets at different locations both in Nigeria and outside, because at this period, people are highly interested in herbal and standardized drugs that are efficacious. Moreover, our products are prepared and backed up by scientific research.
Well, talking about contrary opinions, you cannot rule out that, but the good thing is that our standard of operation and quality of services are not questionable. It is research based and everything we do is verifiable.
The founder of this organisation is an eminent professor of pharmacognosy, Professor Maurice Iwu. He is an expert in pharmacognosy practice which is basically herbal medicinal products and traditional herbs research. He commands respect in medicinal plant research.
Transmission of this knowledge of research into products which can take care of human ailments effectively is not what anyone can argue about without proof. The traditional herbal practitioners even find it encouraging liaising and tapping knowledge from what we do here at the center. With our effort to standardize the organic herbal products, we have kept our doors open for a mutual understanding between traditionalists and experts through workshops.
The institution is in association with others bodies including companies overseas. Along the line, there has been an annual event we instituted called the “Herbfest Expo”. It is a gathering of who is who in medical research, herbal medicine. We use this platform to gather all practitioners including the traditional herbal practitioners and those that are not knowledgeable in herbal science to come together for common goal.
During the expo shows, there is an exchange of ideas and knowledge managed by experts, researchers including traditionalist. Everyone share ideas on how to handle and manage what was learnt either from research education or what was learnt from ancestors as a heritage. All these come in much better way to suit the circulation of herb medicines in the market. We play vital role in training the traditional medicine practitioners to make sure they have the required knowledge in doing their normal business.
As a research institute, we are not proliferated but pay heed to quality and standard. Staff strength is in high percentage of professionals because most of the thing we do here is pure science based. Most of the sensitive areas are managed by qualified professionals. This is a center that accommodates people from different scientific backgrounds based on the need.
We have experts with pharmaceutical background, chemistry, biology and food science backgrounds. We also have plant science and biotechnology experts. Most of the plant materials we use are sourced and certified by the plant science experts. At the center, we work according to recommendations from the technologists. Besides, we also have some non professionals but we train them to work at their levels.
In the production facility that deals with medicinal products, there are some challenges which I feel is a general one in the society; power problem. We run on generator set because we cannot function here without power.
The equipments are mainly designed to remain functional with electricity round the day, and we can’t afford to put them off because they are expensive and might stop functioning. The regular power supply from the public is very epileptic. We spend huge on running the generators. We also generate power supply through solar system. But this, however, cannot carry the equipments here. The solar system serves as an additional power source but on a low voltage. For proper production, it requires high voltage.
Another major challenge is lack of adequate support from government. The idea of establishing this facility is to help and solve some of the national problems which are health and unemployment. ‘Health for all” is a national challenge. Looking at the center that accommodates medical experts and non professionals up to 40 in number, government should understand that it is helping the society and should be encouraged.
The organisation is playing a vital role in the health sector, using indigenous organic source to produce medicines for the general healthcare. Our drugs like I mentioned is targeted to solve the issue of corona virus cases. Everyone benefit from our product. This is an individual effort initiated by the eminent professor, Maurice Iwu. It is the first of its kind in Africa and has been very functional since inception. The facility is the only place you can see the nature of this equipments in Africa and because of power supply, we are not really working to full capacity as we should.
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