‘Novel ISO 17025 accredited labs will deliver timely, accurate, reliable results’

Prof. Chimezie Anyakora is a pharmaceutical chemist and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bloom Public Health. Anyakora in this interview with journalists speaks on the recent establishment of Nigeria’s first ANAB accredited independent analytical laboratory complex and its impact on the public health sector and economy. CHUKWUMA MUANYA was there.

Can you shed more light on ISO 17025 accreditation and its significance for laboratory analysis, with specific reference to Nigeria?
ISO 17025 is the gold standard for analytical laboratory accreditation. It contains requirements for analytical labs to show competence to deliver timely, accurate, and reliable results that meet global standards. The accreditation involves an independent assessment of the analytical laboratory by a qualified, authoritative body, such as the American-based ANAB, NiNAS in Nigeria and SANAS in South Africa. 

The ISO 17025 accreditation of Katchey Laboratories by ANAB is proof that the laboratory has the same quality as the best laboratories in the US and across the world. This is a landmark achievement for Nigeria as it signifies that results from Katchey lab can be presented anywhere in the world, as they are globally acceptable. In other words, this accreditation is like bringing global quality to our local environment, literally to our doorsteps. This achievement is also the first of its kind in West Africa as this is the first time an analytical laboratory will open its doors, having already obtained ANAB accreditation. 

With the establishment of this novel, ANAB accredited analytical laboratory complex, what major positive changes can we expect in Nigeria’s healthcare system and economy?
The positive changes we expect to see are huge! First, for me as an academic it is exciting to have a laboratory that is fully equipped with state-of-the art analytical instruments and serves as a one-stop shop for all analytical needs. Katchey lab will cater for a wide range of analytical areas, including life sciences, food and beverage, agribusiness, oil and gas, Research and Development (R&D), and the Pharmaceutical industry, amongst others. This would help to cut down the time and cost of production, as it will eliminate the need to send materials requiring laboratory approval abroad for testing. Hence, providing faster and globally acceptable results. 

The R&D sector in Nigeria will have ready access to analytical equipment needed for research, leading to a huge boost in Nigeria’s research capacity, with the potential to achieve life-changing health and scientific discoveries. This lab will also result in a significant increase in international trade and investment in the country, giving Nigerians confidence to export their products globally.

What role has Bloom Public Health played in this landmark achievement and in the laboratory space within Nigeria?
Bloom Public Health played a leading role in the establishment and ISO accreditation of Katchey lab. Bloom has been at the forefront, strengthening and building capacity in both analytical and diagnostic laboratories across Africa, by forming strategic partnerships and collaborations with internationally reputable organisations with similar goals. As a public health think tank that is building its reputation as one of the most credible technical partners to health-related innovations within and outside Nigeria, and a technical partner of Katchey Laboratories Ltd, Bloom Public Health provided full technical support to Katchey Laboratories throughout the journey to ISO 17025 accreditation. 

The technical support we provided for this project, amongst others, includes the entire setup of the laboratory, purchase and calibration of premium equipment, the recruitment and training of all laboratory staff in QMS, SOPs, and all documentation procedures required to achieve and maintain accreditation through on-site and supervised training from experts in laboratory quality management systems (QMS).
 
Bloom Public Health has also excelled in the diagnostic space within Nigeria. A recent achievement is the establishment of Delta Plus Diagnostics, a world-class, fully equipped, and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) recognised molecular laboratory complex in Ogunu, Delta State. With our technical support we achieved the establishment of this laboratory and its journey to NCDC optimisation. 

How can this achievement be replicated and sustained in the country?
For us at Bloom Public Health, this is a major milestone towards scaling our laboratory interventions across Africa. We believe strongly in the ability of strategic partnerships and collaborations to transform Nigeria’s public health sector and we are open to partnering with reputable companies that share similar goals. 

A proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, walk together.” It is evident that partnerships are necessary to achieve the common goal of strengthening laboratory systems and services. This service delivery area is a cross cutting intervention, requiring the coordinated and harmonised activities of various stakeholders. No single entity can work in isolation to achieve lasting success. Where funding is available, technical expertise may be lacking. However, through partnerships, each player can contribute its expertise to achieve sustainable results. 

Our partnership with Katchey Laboratories is an outstanding model in health financing and one that other stakeholders should emulate in Nigeria’s public health sector. We should deploy such strategic partnerships in the establishment and strengthening of analytical and diagnostic laboratories across the country.

What other interventions have Bloom Public Health made in the public health space in Africa?
Bloom Public Health’s interventions extend beyond the analytical and diagnostic space. We are also actively involved in the fight against falsified and substandard medicines in Africa and in ensuring sustainable availability and access to safe, quality, and affordable medicines on the continent. 

To achieve our goal of advancing primary health care in Nigeria, we recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Ebonyi State government, along with our strategic partners, to establish a Drug Revolving Fund (DRF) scheme in Ebonyi State. We will establish an innovative healthcare supply chain system in Ebonyi State that will leverage cutting edge technology to centrally procure, store, manage, provide last mile distribution of pharmaceutical and other medical products to healthcare facilities across the State and ensure revenue optimization for the State by digitization of its healthcare facilities. This intervention is already being scaled up in other states. We have also partnered with Nigeria’s National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) in a World Bank-funded program to support selected Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturers through the process of WHO Prequalification. This will be the biggest pharmaceutical intervention in the country and will be a great model for other African countries.

Bloom Public Health will provide full technical support for the selected companies, including accessing gaps in the companies’ technical capacities and quality management systems when compared with global standards; conducting technical workshops on the process of WHO PQ; providing a tailored made technical assistance etc. This project will achieve the first ever WHO PQ of pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria.

What is your future plans for Nigeria’s public health sector?
Bloom Public Health is committed to creating African driven solutions to solve African public health issues, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. We look forward to forging global partnerships to design interventions that are tailored to the continent. One major project we hope to fully accomplish in a couple of years is the establishment of Nigeria’s premier pharmaceutical manufacturing park. Bloom Public Health has continued to champion this project because we believe this will tackle the existing challenges in Nigeria’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sector and revolutionise indigenous drug manufacturing.

Our plans are already underway. Pharmacity, as the park is called, will be a compact modern-day pharmaceutical industrial estate that brings together pharmaceutical companies of various sizes, service providers, and companies providing support services to co-locate and share infrastructure.

Ultimately, at Bloom Public Health, we are different because simply we believe talented Africans need to be on the driver’s seat to solve Africa’s public health challenges. We will scale up success stories of impact across different African countries. Bloom Public Health will focus on four pillars with some flexibility: public health supply chain, pharmaceutical quality systems, laboratory strengthening and diagnostics, and policy for public health.