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Dr Onyema Ogbuagu: Meet Nigerian Leading Researcher for COVID-19 Vaccine Development

The giant strides recorded by many Nigerians home and abroad in every endeavor of human life attest to the abundance of excellent human resource the nation boasts of despite the myriad of challenges confronting her.

Many persons carrying the gene of the most populous black nation, especially in the diaspora, have exhibited ingenuity which tower them over their peers in different fields including medicine, literature, academics, sports, business, law, technology among others. This has earned them global recognitions while the flag of their home country, Nigeria, flies with pride in the consciousness of world citizens.

This is not to say there have not been a few bad eggs who have soiled the image of the country with anti-social activities, but the contributions of Nigerians to world development cannot be overemphasised.

One of such Nigerians in diaspora who have adored the image of the country with glory is Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, a researcher and medical doctor who graduated at the University of Calabar, Cross River State in 2003.

 Ogbuagu is an associate professor of medicine in the clinician-educator track and director of the HIV clinical trials programme of the Yale AIDS programme at the Yale School of Medicine.
Proudly, he is one of those leading the research at the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, for the development of COVID-19 vaccine in the US.

Pfizer and BioNTech had announced that the first vaccine they developed against COVID-19 could prevent more than 90 percent of people from getting infected. 43,000 people in six countries have been tested and no safety concerns have been raised. His contribution to this breakthrough earned him accolades from the United States Mission to Nigeria.

“Nigerians contribute to the world in so many ways. Our hats off to Dr Onyema Ogbuagu at Yale who helped develop a COVID-19 vaccine,” US said.

This feat, no doubt, will be regarded globally as the contribution of another Nigerian to global health care in the search for a vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 which has killed almost 1.4million persons globally.

His Background and Academic Journey:

Ogbuagu come from a background known for academic excellence. He is one of the twin sons of a former Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University, Chibuzo Ogbuagu and a Professor of Sociology, Stella Ogbuagu. His twin brother is also an engineer. Dr Ogbuagu and his twin brother were born in New Haven in Connecticut, which serves as home to the Ivy league Yale University in the US.

The family returned to Nigeria and he studied Medicine at UNICAL. After graduation, he proceeded to intern at the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, before returning to the US. He subsequently interned at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Elmhurst), New York. He rose to become chief resident at the same school after which he became a fellow of infectious diseases, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

Researches Conducted

His immeasurable expertise is evident in the numerous researches he has led in the US and Africa. The one which has brought him to global limelight is his contribution to the development of COVID-19 as one of the lead researchers.
 His years of experience at Yale and his reputation earned him the opportunity to make history. Also, for five years, he has worked as director of the Yale HIV clinical trials programme, and a principal investigator on numerous pharmacokinetic, phase 2 and 3 safety and efficacy trials of novel antiviral compounds.

He has over six years experience working as a faculty of the human resources for health programme in Rwanda where he mentors medical residents and junior faculty in quality improvement and clinical research projects that are locally relevant and addressing important infectious diseases-related problems (particularly HIV/AIDS and antimicrobial resistance).

Awards and Honours in His Cabinet 

As a mark of recognition for his contribution to his field, Dr Ogbuagu has received numerous awards and honours. In 2015, Ogbuagu became a fellow, American College of Physicians. In 2017, he was a nominee for Charles W. Bohmfalk Award in Clinical Science, Yale University School of Medicine. In the same year, he won the Steve Huot Faculty Award for Dedication and Excellence, Yale University School of Medicine Internal Medicine Primary Care programme.

In 2019, Ogbuagu was awarded the Gerald H. Friedland award for outstanding international research. In 2020, he emerged as a nominee for Charles W. Bohmfalk Award in Clinical Science, Yale University School of Medicine.