Ugandan scientists have criticised the National Drug Authority (NDA) for arresting a university graduate who claimed that he had found a cure for Covid-19.
On Wednesday, NDA arrested Mr Robert Mijumbi, a biotechnologist, who graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science Technology (Biology) at Kyambogo University.
Mr Mijumbi who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Biobert Research Group claimed that he had been conducting his research on vital drugs for incurable diseases independently at his home laboratory in Bweyogerere, Wakiso District.
In his letter to the Ministry of Health, Mr Mijumbi said he had manufactured an enzyme (protein) that he previously administered to a patient intravenously who he claimed that had been cured of HIV.
He said in the letter that the ministry received on the same day that he believed that the procedure he used in getting to the HIV cure drug, could work as a cure for Covid-19.
Mr Mijumbi uploaded a You Tube video on April 11, this year that received a wide viewership prompting NDA to arrest him since after searching his home, it was found that there was no credible laboratory at his workstation.
The secretary of Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, Dr Samuel Opio, said it was bad for Mr Mijumbi to cause such an overexcitement among people. He added that Mr Mijumbi’s research was not subjected to extensive trials for him to reach such a conclusion.
“Production of any new drug requires it to undergo pre-clinical studies which are known” since Mr Mijumbi’s biologics can instead cause diseases to people given their purification procedures.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday, NDA secretary, Dr David Nahamya dismissed Mr Mijumbi’s findings saying they were “unfounded.”
“You just don’t come out and start deceiving people. In all his findings, there is no evidence. You don’t just come out. You first have to come here and we guide you”.
However, the ex-president of Uganda Medical Association, Dr Andrew Ekwaro Obuku, criticised NDA for arresting Mr Mijumbi.
“I do not know which part of the law NDA invoked to arrest Mr Mijumbi. Let us not arrest ideas in panic at this time of need and rather proceed systematically.”
Despite this, Dr Obuku said it is common for some people to claim that they have a cure for HIV/AIDS, thus, throwing desperate people into excitement.
A researcher and lecturer of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Makerere University, Dr Patrick Vudriko, said there are many scientists stranded with their ideas because of limited resources.
He asked laboratories with capacity equipment to absorb him so that he can continue with his research.
“Research labs that have capacity to absorb him should give him the opportunity to carry out his research ethically,” he said.
Dr Obuko said developing a drug is expensive and takes a lot of time which becomes difficult without government support.
“The money to the ICT ministry could be used to support innovations. More money could be earmarked for local research and adapt technologies such as Mobile Apps for contact tracing.
In her tweet on Friday, Senior Presidential Advisor on Youth Affairs, Ms Lilian Aber, said: “Much as I am not sure about the authenticity of Mr Mijumbi’s cure for Covid-19 or HIV virus, I don’t think he should have been arrested. This is very discouraging to many youth who are creative and involved in solutions based research. Am disappointed!”
This website has learnt that Mr Mijumbi’s arrest has also attracted President Yoweri Museveni’s attention wondering why the “boy was arrested when he can be interviewed and later supported to further his research.”
It is this presidential intervention that led Mr Mijumbi who was slated to appear before Buganda Road Court yesterday to walk Scot-free.
Reports say Mr Mijumbi has been vetoed from speaking to the press.
However, it is learnt that President Museveni wants to meet Mr Mijumbi in a meeting that will be scheduled by his handlers.