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A funding shortfall has caused research to cease at a Nigerian institute that develops drug candidates from traditional herbal remedies.

The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), based in Abuja, has already developed a potential therapy for sickle-cell disease and has encouraging results for compounds to treat malaria and tuberculosis.

But a key grant from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has run out and the Nigerian Ministry of Health has not covered the funding gap. As a result, research on drugs for all three diseases has largely ground to a halt.

"There are lots of things we don't do because we have no money," said Karniyus Gamaniel, NIPRD's director-general.

The funding gap will prevent further development of Nicosan (niprisan), the institute's potential treatment for sickle-cell anaemia.

Getting good phase III trial data is the "crucial next step" for developing the drug, said Marie Stuart, a professor of paediatrics and haematology at Thomas Jefferson University, United States.

But financial constraints have hindered NIPRD from doing further clinical trials, Gramaniel said.

Umar Bindir, director-general of Nigeria's National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, said ministries cannot fund any institute in excess of a yearly cap, fixed by the ministry of finance, so the chances of any further funding are slim.

"It doesn't matter what you have as an institution and how important you are, the ceiling doesn't change and it's not good for R&D," said Bindir. "NIPRD has to intensify its own efforts by doing contract research for industry and submitting proposals to institutions such as the African Union and the European Union."

Link to full article in Nature