Adigwe calls for adoption of Artificial Intelligence

... says it will improve healthcare delivery

Peter Adigwe, director general, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), has called on stakeholders in the health sector to ensure the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in conceptualising and implementing healthcare delivery reforms.

Speaking at the 4th annual scientific conference of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), which held in Abuja, with the theme, “Innovations in Science and Technology for Attainment of Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria, “Adigwe explained how AI enables process improvement opportunities and creates more efficiency by mimicking human intelligence through computer manipulated algorithmic exploration of contextual databases.

In the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Ekanem Ikpi Braide, president of Africa’s foremost Academy, led a high powered team of scientists and policymakers to undertake a facility tour of NIPRD.

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During the engagement, both parties committed to initiating innovative contextual projects that promote development and advancement of science, technology, and innovation (STI) not just in Nigeria, but across the continent.

The meeting also highlighted the criticality of policy and stakeholder engagement in the adoption of evidence-based scientific interventions in solving problems of national interest.

At the 4th NAS conference, NIPRD DG, expounded aspects of his presentation and briefed journalists of his Institute’s readiness to partner with the Academy in articulating and implementing Artificial Intelligence initiatives.

In addition to unveiling the ongoing multi-million dollar purpose built AI and ML innovation and incubation facility, focused on resource efficient phytomedicine and drug discovery, Adigwe revealed other areas where synergies could be harnessed by leveraging the academy’s immense human capacity.

“The NIPRD Artificial Intelligence Laboratory will also be capacitated to enable interventions in patient diagnosis. This will consequently reduce pressure on physicians by working through vast quantities of information to deliver higher quality patient care at reduced costs,” he said.

“NIPRD AI lab will support the development of interventions that enhance all levels of healthcare workflow and practice, including workflow optimisation, support for interpretation tasks, quality and safety, and operational efficiency.

“Introducing Artificial Intelligence interventions for centralised medical record database will unlock potential value for the healthcare ecosystem by providing up- to-date, accurate and complete information for more coordinated and efficient patient care.

“Similarly, the automation of other mundane and repetitive tasks in the healthcare ecosystem will free up healthcare professionals to tackle more complex problems. This is especially pertinent in Nigeria, given the low professional to patient ratio, across all relevant disciplines”.

Following the pandemic and ahead of the full implementation of the AfCFTA, Adigwe argued that AI represents the most effective tool for harnessing God-given resources to emerge the continental hub for drug and phytomedicines’ research, development and production.

He further illustrated this by presenting AI for phytomedicines’ mapping where emergent and existing plants and herbal products can be identified, categorised and matched with characteristics of conditions and diseases, in a more expeditious and resource efficient manner.

He gave the example of how NIPRD, using its rudimentary AI competencies emerged the first in the world to predict the utility of andrographis paniculata for COVID-19.

This product, Adiwe explained had now been listed for immune support, adding that it is being put forward for clinical trials.

Fellows of the academy, who reacted to the presentation, commended NIPRD’s pro-collaboration ethos which according to them had seen a recent upsurge in partnership and cooperation with many critical agencies and development partners.

Experts in the health sector also noted that a partnership between NIPRD and Africa’s foremost Academy to catalyse health access through AI was a step in the right direction.