To contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) established by the United Nations, the Department of Biochemistry at the College of Pure and Applied Sciences in collaboration with Landmark University SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), organized a webinar with the theme: Bio-economy: Leveraging on Advancements in Gene Manipulation Strategies for Improvements in Agriculture and Health. The webinar which held on the 28th of March, 2023 at the International Exhibition Centre of the University was anchored on SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).  

Following the opening prayer (said by Dr C. O. Nwonuma), National and University anthems (by CSIS) and establishment of protocol (by Dr. A. P. Oluyori), the Director LUCRID presented the prologue of the webinar. In his speech, he define Bio-economy as a model which involves the use of renewable biological resources sustainably to produce food, energy and industrial goods. He also expressed his excitement at having the eminent Professor George M. Church from Harvard University and Dr. Omoaruemike E. Okereke from SHETSCO as the two presenters to do justice to the topic.

Director LUCRID, Dr. Dada, delivering the prologue of the webinar

Dean, CPAS, Prof. Adebiyi, delivering his welcome address

Following the welcome address which was delivered by the Dean of College of Pure and Applied Sciences, Prof. Adebiyi, the Vice Chancellor, Landmark University, Professor Charity Aremu, took the floor to deliver her remarks. She started by appreciating the proprietor base, that is the Chancellor Dr. David Oyedepo and the Prochancellor, Pastor (Mrs.) Faith Oyedepo, for all the efforts and resources put into Landmark University, which has taken the University to a world class status. She thereafter welcomed the facilitators virtually to Landmark University and appreciated the Department of Biochemistry for attracting such an eminent scientist as Professor Church. Prof. Aremu, being a geneticist herself delivered her presentation which was centred on the importance of sustainable production of food for the teeming population in Nigeria and the world at large. She emphasized that since man must eat and there was no substitute for food, the world must embrace genetic engineering so as to solve the problem of food insecurity globally. She finally expressed the hope of Landmark University to collaborate with the facilitators in the nearest future in the area of genetic engineering.   

Vice Chancellor, Prof Charity O. Aremu giving her speech

The very impressive citation of the first facilitator, Prof. George McDonald Church was expressly delivered by Dr. M. A. Acho of the Department of Biochemistry, which is summarized as follows:

George McDonald Church, 1984 Harvard PhD, is professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, a founding member of the Wyss Institute, and director of PersonalGenomes.org, the world’s only open-access information on human genomic, environmental, and trait data. Church is known for pioneering the fields of personal genomics and synthetic biology. He developed the first methods for the first genome sequence & dramatic cost reductions since then (down from $3 billion to $600), contributing to nearly all “next generation sequencing” methods and companies. His team invented CRISPR for human stem cell genome editing and other synthetic biology technologies and applications – including new ways to create organs for transplantation, gene therapies for aging reversal, and gene drives to eliminate Lyme Disease and Malaria. Church is director of IARPA & NIH BRAIN Projects and National Institutes of Health Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. He has co-authored more than 625 papers and 156 patent publications, and one book, “Regenesis”. His honors include Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science, the Time 100, and election to the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. 

Dr. M. A. Acho reading the citation of Professor George M. Church 

It was indeed a mind-blowing presentation as Prof. Church took to the floor to do justice to the topic; Bio-economy: Leveraging of advancements in Gene Modification Strategies for Improvements in Agriculture and Health. In his presentation, he shared the results of numerous researches he and his team have carried out which left many of his audience in awe of how much work has been done in the field of genetic engineering. Among his many works on the application of genetic engineering to Agriculture, he discussed how he has modified different plant types to improve yield, taste and nutrient composition, incorporate pest/pathogen-resistant and nitrogen-fixing ability and reduce moisture content. Notable among all he mentioned was his work centred on combating global warming. This involved de-extinction of the woolly mammoth by combining DNA recovered from ancient frozen mammoths with genetic material of modern Asian elephants. This research was motivated by the 1400 gigatons of carbon (in the form of methane) which covers the top soil in the arctic. He believes that the reinstatement of the mammoths will bring back the lost grasslands to repace the tress since mammoths like to knockdown trees and decay tress will enrich the soil for grass to grow. The mammoths to be produced are engineered to love cold so that they can cope with the cold climate of the arctic.

Slide showing the Mammoth project

In addition, Prof. Church spoke extensively on genetic modification technologies that are targeted at prevention and reversal of aging. He also discussed his research efforts in the area of production of organs for transplant to humans. Domestic pigs are conceived by in vitro fertilization and the foetus allowed to grow to maturity in a surrogate mother. The application of genetic engineering in this research helped to circumvent the challenges of immune response, systemic inflammation and porcine retroviruses that may harm the human receptor. Organs that have undergone preclinical trials include kidney, skin, cornea, heart etc.

The citation of the second facilitator, Dr. Okereke was delivered by Dr. Akinduko of the Department of Biochemistry. Dr Okereke spoke very eloquently on the Genetic Modifications in Agriculture and Health: Regulations and Safety Concerns in Nigeria. She confessed that although the application of genetic engineering in healthcare is still at a juvenile stage in Nigeria, some progress have been made in the case of application in agriculture. She submitted that four (4) gemetically-modified foods (i.e. maize, cowpea, cotton and soya bean) have been approved in Nigeria. She also mentioned that there are scientific evidence(s) the GMOs ate toxic when consumed. She also spoke on the regulation of genetic engineering activities in Nigeria which is done by the National Biosafety Management Agency. 

Onsite participants at the Webinar

Online participants at the Webinar

Following the questions and answers segment which was anchored by the master of the event, Dr. Oluyori, the webinar appraisal was then carried out by the Acting Head, Department of Biochemistry, Dr. B. P. Omoniwa, who also appreciated the facilitators for doing justice to the topics given to them, and the proprietor based and management for creating a platform where knowledge can be shared for the betterment of humanity.

The closing prayer was said by the Head, Department of Physical Sciences, Dr. O. S. Ikubanni.

Group photograph of some onsite participants after the webinar

The 36th webinar of Landmark University was a success. Praise be to God.