19-Year-Old Ghanaian has Built a Search Engine to Rival Google and Youtube

Gabriel Opare, a 19-year-old Ghanaian student has built a new search engine to rival Google and Youtube. Gabriel built a free search engine for videos called Mudclo. Mudclo, an impressive metasearch engine, allows users to discover, search and stream video content from multiple sources on the internet all in one place.

Gabriel believes his search engine is good enough to compete in the search engine business and that it can scale globally. According to Gabriel, “YouTube is a video hosting website, Mudclo combines the power of YouTube and two other video hosting websites in order to create Mudclo,” Its users most popular searches include adverts, music videos and amateur content.

What Google Users Think About Africa

This is a big innovation coming out from Ghana which has seen countries like Nigeria and Kenya popping out series of tech innovations in recent times. Opare is only a level 300 sociology student of the University of Ghana and taught himself how to code by taking online courses during his free time. It is amazing for Gabriel to have come up with this innovation, considering the fact that his skills are not polished yet and he has not gone through high level coding programs like those of Andela.

Mudclo has already caught the attention of some tech companies, including more established video hosting sites, although, there is still some work to be done on Mudclo to fix bugs, boost the features and visual experiences it offers users.

The Deplorable State of Medical Research in Nigeria

Some weeks ago, I was in the office of one of my Professors. I had sought her guidance on my research prospect. The ensuing discussion was about medical research in our society. In the end she requested I do more findings on happenings around. This led me to seek an understanding of the subject. My findings were interesting and saddening.

History of Medical Research in Nigeria

Medical research in Nigeria is as old as humans can remember. According to Nwafor Chidozie in a 2015 publication in the Journal for Studies in Management and Planning, History has it that Nigerians always found a way to combat ailments through the use of crude concussions prepared mostly from plant sources. Even with the advent of modern medicine, these native practices strongly exist with accompanying results.

Emergence of institutes

According to reports submitted by the National Consultative Team and the National Advisory Committee on Essential National Health Research In a March 2000, Medical research began to develop in Nigeria in 1920 when the Rockefeller Foundation established the Yellow Fever Commission. The report recounts the evolution of bodies responsible for the management of science in general and health research in particular. The bodies mentioned include the Nigerian Council for Science and Technology (NCST, 1970), the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA, 1977) and The Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR, 1977). The later ones include; National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Development (NIPRD) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Outcomes and Challenges

Nigeria has had a fair number of novel medical research with some making waves globally. There have been works on Lassa fever, discovery and testing of pharmacological compounds, molecular study of diseases and a host of others. However, this is shadowed by the numerous challenges present in the field.

Read: How Eight Nigerians Discovered the World Foremost Anti-sickle Cell Drug

In a research to sample the opinions of medical researchers in the country, published in the Journal of Human Research Ethics, Adeleye and Adebamowo, discovered that amidst several factors, researchers in the country admit several wrongdoings in the field. Also Nwafor Chidozie, in his publication highlighted problems associated with investment and funding, infrastructures, relocation of bright minds and the mode of communication.

Under-funding

Over the years, the Federal Government’s budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Health has been below par. In 2015, the health budget was 257 billion Naira, representing about 5.5 per cent of the national budget which is a far cry from the 15 per cent standard stipulated by the World Health Organization. Of this allocation, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) which is under the Federal Ministry of health had a total allocation of 876,164,637 Naira. Again, only about 6 per cent of this (50 million Naira) covers total Capital Expenditure. Other related health and medical research agencies face almost the same ordeal.

Read: What Africa Loses By Underfunding Science

Poor Infrastructure

If funding is poor, infrastructure will equally be poor. This is simply because funds are needed to build and maintain structures, as well as purchase facilities and upgrade existing ones. Nigeria, a country of approximately 170 million people sadly cannot boast of 5 standard medical research centers functioning at full capacity. The resultant effect is that we cannot carry out comprehensive data collection and analysis for research within the shores of the country.

Brain drain

Brain drain is simply the loss of intellectual and technical labor through the movement of such labor to more favorable geographic, economic or professional environment. This sequence transcends almost all professions in the country. We continue to experience a mass exodus of our best brains to other viable countries because we have refused to take the necessary measures to keep them within.

Read: Scientific Research and Brain Drain in Africa

Wide Communication Gap

Looking critically at our system of communicating results and opinions, one would find a wide gap. It is assumed that if people knew better, they would do better. A large number of the populace do not have access to medical and health information. This is more evident in rural areas as most medical services are concentrated within urban settlements. The challenge herein lies in the fact that most rural dwellers cannot access major information platforms such as the electronic and print media; hence, information campaigns have to be taken physically to these places incurring more logistic cost. Another unfortunate scenario is the fact that local researchers hardly get their works published in reputable international journals.

Read: The Need for Science Communication in Africa

My Recommendations

My findings aligns with the Professor’s thoughts. The situation we have found ourselves is alarming and we must act soon. With my findings, I want to suggest:

  • Adherence to the World Health Organization set standard of 15 per cent national health budgetary allocation, revision of the budget structure and credence given to capital expenditure over recurrent expenditure.
  • Implementation of every aspect of the National Strategic Health Development Plan launched in 2010.
  • Sustenance of existing medical research institutes, and the establishment of more spread across the geo-political zones.
  • Encouraging corporate sponsorship of research programs in the country. We must also ensure training and retraining of the country’s researchers both locally and internationally.
  • Multi-sectoral collaboration, liaising with Nigerian academics and intellectuals in the diaspora, networking with western and European universities that have African-centered initiative programs, and funding by government, foundations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), among others, to achieve synergistic effects.

The Black Woman Who Changed Modern Medicine and Saved Millions of Lives

“When other cells are very finicky and you look at them crosswise and they die, her cells grow happily in the laboratory dish decade after decade.”  –  Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, United Sates

“Grown and sold around the world, [Henrietta] Lacks’ legacy lived on in her cells: they have travelled to space, they have been embedded in a nuclear bomb…HeLa [Henrietta Lacks] cells were used to test the polio vaccine, develop in-vitro fertilization, and several chemotherapy drugs among hundreds of medical advances.” – NBC News

“HeLa cells were in high demand and put into mass production. They were mailed to scientists around the globe for “research into cancerAIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and countless other scientific pursuits”. HeLa cells were the first human cells successfully cloned in 1955, and have since been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products. Since the 1950s, scientists have grown 20 tons of her cells, and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells.” – Wikipedia

Read: How people of African Decent Can Benefit from Precision Medicine

“Something like half of the Nobel Prizes in medicine over the course of the last 60 years have utilized HeLa cells to make their discoveries.” –  Dr. Francis Collins

Despite all these incredible amount of advances and contribution to the world of medicine that had come from this one woman’s cells, unless you’re in the medical field — you’ve probably never even heard her name.

Even the Lacks family for decades had no idea of these amazing break throughs. When doctors came to test the family’s blood for more research, her children didn’t understand what it meant. They didn’t know.

Read: Nigerian who Needed Stem Cell Treatment Dies after Sister was Refused UK Visa

Who is Henrietta Lacks?

According to Wikipedia, “Henrietta Lacks (born Loretta Pleasant; August 1, 1920 – October 4, 1951) was an African-American woman whose cancer cells were the source of the HeLa cell line, the first immortalized cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research. An immortalized cell line will reproduce indefinitely under specific conditions, and the HeLa cell line continues to be a source of invaluable medical data to the present day.”

The medical research

As written on Wikipedia, “George Otto Gey, the first researcher to study Lacks’s cancerous cells, observed that her cells were unique in that they reproduced at a very high rate and could be kept alive long enough to allow more in-depth examination. Until then, cells cultured for laboratory studies only survived for a few days at most, which wasn’t long enough to perform a variety of different tests on the same sample. Lacks’s cells were the first to be observed that could be divided multiple times without dying, which is why they became known as “immortal.” After Lacks’ death, Gey had Mary Kubicek, his lab assistant, take further HeLa samples while Henrietta’s body was at Johns Hopkins’ autopsy facility. The roller-tube technique was the method used to culture the cells obtained from the samples that Kubicek collected. Gey was able to start a cell line from Lacks’s sample by isolating one specific cell and repeatedly dividing it, meaning that the same cell could then be used for conducting many experiments. They became known as HeLa cells, because Gey’s standard method for labeling samples was to use the first two letters of the patient’s first and last names.”

Read: The Deplorable State of Medical Research in Nigeria

No consent, no compensation

Before the cells of Henrietta Lacks were collected, no consent was obtained and neither she or her family was compensated for their use. Johns Hopkins Hospital was reported to have said that it never profited from HeLa cells, but millions of dollars have changed hands elsewhere, as the cells were cultured and sold around the world.

According to NBC, the Lacks family was never compensated, but are moving forward and says the impact is bigger than money.

Read: How 50 Medical Experts Separated Kenyan Conjoined Twins in 23-Hour Surgery

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