Only Time Stands Between Onyema and Fame

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Hearing that at the heart of the Pfizer vaccine trial, which promises to be a global game-changer in the fight against COVID-19 is a Nigerian is news, but learning that the Nigerian, Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu is not much of news, given his background.

Onyema is from a home of hardcore academics whose lives must have shaped his discipline and thoughts into research, a path that has brought to being an associate professor, and to be in the thick of Pfizer’s vaccine trial.

His father, Professor Chibuzo Ogbuagu, is a former vice-chancellor of Abia State University; his mother, Stella Ogbuagu, is a professor of sociology.

So, towing the path that has brought him where he is today was only natural. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, one of the ivy league schools inn United States. He is also currently Yale principal investigator on multiple investigational therapeutic and preventative clinical trials for COVID-19, including remdesivir (now FDA approved), leronlimab and remdesivir and tocilizumab combination therapy as well as the Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine trial.

His responsibility at Pfizer/BioNTech encompasses Phase 1/2/3, placebo controlled, randomised, observer-blind, dose-finding study to evaluate the safety, tolerability, immunogenicity and efficacy of SARS CoV2 RNA vaccine candidates against COVID-19 among healthy individuals.

He started the project in August 2020 and is expected to complete it by the expiry of two years.

Having mostly focused on HIV medicine, specifically treatment and prevention has helped him have the machinery ready to conduct clinical trials when COVID-19 hit.

“From April, I led clinical trials on Remdesivir, a therapeutic drug that was granted emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of COVID-19, and since August 26 I have been running trials of a vaccine for COVID-19 prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital,” he said.

In an interview with ABC News after the final analysis of the vaccine was released recently, Ogbuagu disclosed that the vaccine, which has raised the hopes of millions of people worldwide, would help achieve “the supposed” herd immunity. He added, “This could really be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. ”

Ogbuagu obtained his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the University of Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, in 2003. That background is yet another clear indication that Nigerian schools, although largely under-equipped, are not as bad as perceived by many after all.

Ogbuagu’s success story is just one example of countless products of Nigerian schools.

Henry Onoghan

Henry Onoghan

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