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NUL makes breakthrough towards COVID-19 drug

NUL Vice Chancellor Prof Kananelo Mosito

Dec. 1, 2020 4 min read

4 min read

THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) has made progress towards finding a potential drug compound for the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The potential drug compound was an initiative by a team of researchers at NUL and preliminary tests were done at the institution.
On July 29, the drug compound was taken to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, South Africa where it has been revealed that the compound drug is active or effective against the two Coronaviruses tested namely SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV as well as for toxicity and therapeutic index.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology (MCST) Chief Thesele 'Maseribane in Roma on Monday.

In his address, the minister said the results were received by his office on November 12 from CSIR, showing that the mixture can actually fight the virus infection as it is safe to animal cells and can be a good drug candidate against COVID-19.
Chief ’Maseribane therefore said this is an indication of urgent potential as a future drug for the Coronavirus.
As a way forward, he said pre-clinical and clinical trials should be undertaken to further evaluate the activity of the drug compound for use on humans, adding that if the trials yield positive results, then the drug will be introduced to the market for treatment of COVID-19 through the NUL Innovation Hub Business Support Programme.

He said this potential drug compound is not yet a treatment for COVID-19 until it has been approved as such by relevant bodies.
He expressed his gratitude to researchers at NUL and his colleagues who worked together in this project.
For his part, NUL Vice Chancellor Professor Kananelo Mosito said this is an important occasion for the university to become part of national and international studies to rapidly develop a new drug and knowledge towards the Coronavirus.
He said the pandemic has compelled researchers of higher learning institutions to perform diagnostic testing and experiments in laboratories for infectious diseases.
Prof Mosito said the clinical research has been vital to improving COVID-19 management, adding that the global future relies on the development of effective remedy and treatment for the virus.
The COVID-19, he said has changed higher learning institutions in a new and many ways as universities have to make efforts to prevent the contagion caused by the virus.
He the advent of COVID-19 has made it possible for governments and universities to work closely together, adding that in the past, governments used to drift away from intellectuals.

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“The NUL is working together with the government in this difficult moment of COVID-19 and the crisis indeed precipitated by COVID-19 has opened a window of opportunities for the university to engage with society and the government,” Prof Mosito also said.
The Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Professor Leboli Thamae said it is exciting to be talking about the progress on the project of national and international significance, which was undertaken by some of NUL researchers.
He said in the 2015-2020 NUL Strategic Plan, the faculty has been mandated to spearhead the Innovation Hub, adding that this strategic move has elevated the university to one that does research and community service.

The drug compound he said, is a mixture of herbal plants found in Lesotho, which were first tested in July and declared non-toxic.
He applauded to the Minister and his ministry for their unwavering support, adding that there is need of support of the nation to continue doing the research.
He appealed for a research fund from the government budget, adding that during the upcoming financial year, there has to be a budget set aside for research only.

Pre-clinical trials will be done on rats and if they yield positive results, then the extract will be tested on people who are COVID-19 positive and that will be on voluntary basis.

The trials are expected to take between six and 12 months if the fund and other resources are provided.

NUL’s team of researchers include Dr Lerato Seleteng-Kose, Dr Liteboho Maduna, Professor Mosotho George, Mr Oriel Hlokoane and Mr Motiki Beleme.

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