Professor Emmanuel Marfo-Owusu, the Foundation Dean of School of Sciences, University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) has called for an X-ray Synchrotron Radiation Facility to push Science and Innovation Research Studies in the country.
“The country also needs X-ray Crystallography Laboratories too”, Prof. Marfo-Owusu stated when he spoke on “The Pathway for Ghana’s Development and Advancement in Chemical, Material, Pharmaceutical and Medical Sciences Research Breakthroughs: The X-Ray Crystallography and Supramolecular Chemistry Approach” at the first inaugural lecture of the University, held at Fiapre, near Sunyani.
He said such a Radiation facility must be equipped with state-of-art equipment and analytical tools and instruments required for various areas of research in material, chemical, pharmaceutical and medical sciences.
“The facility could also have a lodging facility, library and cafeteria, good and stable flow of electricity to enable researchers from all walks of life in Ghana and other parts of the world to appreciate their time in conducting research analysis on their samples in such a facility”, he added.
Prof. Marfo-Owusu explained the facility would generate so many funds for the country and make scientists more productive and enhance the nation’s development in science and technology.
“Ghana could be the first country in Africa to have X-ray Synchrotron Radiation Facility if it can be considered by the government,” he added.
He said most of the scientific breakthroughs had been attributed to the revelations of scientific results obtained from crystallographic studies, saying “it is worth mentioning that two-thirds of Nobel laureates have been crystallographers in the field of Chemistry, Physics, medicine, biochemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry and material science.”
He highlighted how X-ray crystallography had contributed to solving challenging issues of the world through X-ray structural studies by X-ray diffraction techniques, using X-ray synchrotron radiation source as well as X-ray vacuum tubes, diffractometers, and other crystallographic techniques.
Prof. Marfo-Owusu indicated X-ray crystallography remained fundamental in the development of many scientific fields, particularly its immense contribution to research in the medical sciences, virology, structural genome, cancer research, enzymology, pharmaceuticals, superconductors, semiconductors, magnetic materials, laser materials, polymers, battery and fuel cell materials, zeolites, smart materials (materials under stress), mineralogy, geosciences, separation science and many other areas.
“Again, it’s worth mentioning that knowledge of the structural information of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) is a prerequisite for rational drug design and synthesis of new chemical entities for development as new medicines,” he added.
Prof. Marfo-Owusu said changes in drug properties such as solubility, dissolution rate, physical and chemical stability, permeability, and hygroscopicity had successfully been correlated with the crystal structures of API and its cocrystals.
Recently, scientists at the University of Ghana successfully sequenced the genome of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the global COVID-19 pandemic, obtaining important information about the genetic composition of the viral strains but lacked knowledge on the crystal structure of the virus that could have given these scientists knowledge on the binding sites on the protein molecule (virus) for a probable drug (guest) with complementary binding sites to clamp onto the host protein (virus) molecule and thereby disable their harmful activity.
He highlighted the need for introducing X-ray crystallography and supramolecular chemistry techniques and applications in Ghana’s science based tertiary institutions, research institutions, chemical and medical laboratories.
“It will be laudable for the Government of Ghana and scientists’ community in Ghana to also consider having excellent state-of-art equipped crystallography research laboratories as well as train many crystallographers (small molecule and macromolecule crystallographers) for the purpose of enhancing research knowledge in molecular science, he stated.
Prof. Marfo-Owusu also called on the government to encourage and reward researchers who contributed to economic growth and development and called for the establishment of national library for archiving all important research projects and graduate studies research in chemical, material, pharmaceutical and medical sciences to serve the nation as a source of information for future researchers.”
“The Government of Ghana is also encouraged to make an effort to invest heavily in research on molecular science with respect to research in areas such as determining the molecular structures of therapeutic compounds in various important herbal medicines or drugs,” he said.
“The government needs to invest in establishing more chemical producing companies to enable scientists access to chemicals and reagents without the need to wait for several days, months and years to obtain chemicals or reagents needed for research work from overseas.
This, he added, would enhance the rate of productivity, and further a national database of scientists and their respective areas of expertise to enable the nation to know areas of sciences that it lacks personnel as well as know who to employ for a national duty whenever needed.
It is recommended for the Government to have priority areas of research in the sciences, medicine, and engineering with good funding from the Government for research projects within a good, specified period after which the research outcomes applications in industries and medical fields could be utilised for enhancement of economic growth.