Walter Chidozie Anyanwu
A partnership between VCU officials and representatives of the Ivorian government is underway in an effort to equip researchers from the West African country with the skills to establish world-class pharmaceutical practices.
VCU’s Medicines for All Institute — part of the College of Engineering and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — is directly involved in this partnership. The institute works to better accessibility and availability of lifesaving drugs for a myriad of diseases.
Barbara Boyan, dean of the College of Engineering, said one of the goals of the College of Engineering is to improve global health through the Medicines for All Institute.
“If technologies can be developed to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals, we would be able to reach this goal,” Boyan said. “The pharmaceuticals would be manufactured in the countries where they will be used. This reduces transportation and manufacturing costs.”
Boyan said in a statement that “students will come from Ivory Coast to our school and learn the techniques … and take them back to Africa to improve the production of these drugs in a place where they really are needed.”
The three-year arrangement with the Ivorian government will see the university working closely with scientists from the country, helping them boost their expertise in producing these drugs in their home country.
“It’s important for VCU to be able to expand its outreach to students from all over the world,” said John Froitzheim, an instructor in the department of political science who specializes in Africa and other subjects. “And one of the great problems that [Africa] has is its limit in terms of resources for higher education. There’s a lot of talent there that doesn’t get nurtured and developed.”
Froitzheim also pointed out the human capital factor. Students who come over from the Ivory Coast take back valuable skills and abilities; this could then follow them back home, allowing them to grow pharmaceutical technologies.
VCU will also assist with research and planning expertise to aid the Ivorian government in developing a research institute at the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny in the Ivory Coast, in addition to consultation for a new drug facility.