VIDEO: J'can prostate cancer project expands

Nutraceutical products to be launched July

BY ROSS SHEIL Online project manager

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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ALPHA Prostate Formula 1, a product designed for prostate health, is among seven or eight nutraceuticals that Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe will launch this July in his push to create a new local industry.

Meantime, Dr Lowe's research to produce an anti-prostate cancer pharmaceutical drug, also made from the Jamaican ball moss plant, is ongoing. Nutraceutical products, made from natural compounds, do not require the same level of Federal Drug Administration approval required of pharmaceutical products and can therefore reach the market quicker, Lowe was keen to point out.

"I am happy to say that although we are a little bit late in meeting that April deadline, we feel that in another two or so months we should be able to have produced on the market a total of seven or possibly eight products to start this major new development," he told the Observer during a video interview yesterday.

The other nutraceutical products will include another prostate health drug made from guinea hen weed, and one made from aloe vera for general use. The products will be manufactured in Jamaica and overseas under Lowe's Eden Garden Nutraceuticals brand. He is currently finalising arrangements for local, regional and international distribution.

A well-known researcher into the medicinal properties of Jamaican plants and a former winner of the Observer Business Leader Award, Lowe last year established the Bio-Tech Research and Development Institute -- a linkage of the University of the West Indies, University of Technology, Northern Caribbean University and the Scientific Research Council -- to further develop pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals from indigenous Jamaican plants.

The Bio-Tech R&D Institute is now collaborating to produce pharmaceutical drugs from his compounds with the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), a North Carolina-based institute with clients ranging from the United States Government to major pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Merck. RTI is one of several specialist laboratories working with the institute.

"RTI has been responsible for Taxol, which is the most important pharmaceutical drug to be produced from a plant source and which is used against cancer. They made that discovery so they are helping us in that context," explained Lowe.

The collaboration also gives access to technology not available in Jamaica, and RTI is also assisting Lowe with aspects of his nutraceutical work.

"What RTI is doing is, currently we are under contract with the Bio-Tech R&D Institute to actually look and to find the molecules that they have isolated, that they think are the prime molecules giving activity against certain types of cancers and other types of lectures," said Dr Jennie Hunter-Cevera, who was to give the institute's inaugural lecture in Kingston last night.

Dr Hunter-Cevera shared the optimism of her Jamaican colleague about the potential to establish a local nutraceutical industry. She valued the global nutraceutical market at US$400 billion and its pharmaceutical equivalent at US$800 billion.

"Jamaica is a wealth of both human and natural resources and I really think it's time that Jamaica plants a flag and that they start leading in certain areas such as wellness and nutrition and their amazing indigenous knowledge of herbal medicine," she said.

The American scientist listed Jamaica's weather and soil conditions as factors helping to boost the growth of plants with nutraceutical properties. She added that local production of nutraceuticals could also benefit agriculture with the opportunity to produce organically certified herbs and plants.

Lowe cited Blue Mountain Coffee as an example of a Jamaican product enhanced by a unique local climate and soil conditions. The Bio-Tech R&D Institute claims that Jamaica has more than 84 of the 180 established medicinal plants of the world.

However, Hunter-Cevera added that for Jamaica to fully capitalise on its natural advantage, it will be crucial to develop strategic partnerships to help improve standards in the local industry, to research the potency of the local products and gain the necessary international certification.

"That raises the bar, and I think will attract many of the already established nutraceutical houses to start looking at Jamaica and Jamaican plants, at Jamaican knowledge, and maybe co-developing a world marketing plan for what is being grown in Jamaica," said Hunter-Cevera.

She added that she was also interested in learning from and possibly collaborating with other Jamaican scientific and tertiary education entities.

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