Jamaica wants to establish plant-based medicine research centre

Sunday, August 25, 2019

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The Jamaican Government says there are plans to establish a centre in Jamaica to further advance plant-based medicine research.

Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Audley Shaw, says a “programme of cooperation” involving noted Jamaican scientist and businessman, Dr Henry Lowe, as well as Dr Julius Garvey, the son of National Hero Marcus Garvey; and the director at Harvard University Medical School, Dr Wilfred Ngwa, is being finalised for the associate research centre's establishment.

“In fact, Dr Ngwa will soon be visiting Jamaica to further advance these discussions, as Jamaica's unique microclimatic conditions place us in an enviable position globally,” Shaw stated.

Shaw noted that of just over 100 plants, which are known and used for medicines, 51 are indigenous to Jamaica.

“We must also not forget that Dr Lowe and others have developed plant-based medicines in Jamaica that are now world-renowned, and are presently submitting more applications for further development of additional plant-based medicines to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States Government,” he added.

Shaw said a recent study by Harvard University scientists, which showed that cannabis can potentially help cancer victims is “very significant.”

He said he first became aware of this “potentially significant initiative” while attending a conference on plant medicines, hosted by Dr Nwga at Harvard in June.

The minister said that given Jamaica's “unique” history with respect to cannabis and many other plant-based medicines, “exciting days” are ahead for the country in this regard.

Shaw indicated that the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) has now issued 54 licences to cannabis entrepreneurs, and will shortly complete export regulations to facilitate the legal export of cannabis raw materials, such as buds and oil extracts.

For his part, CLA Director Delano Seiveright, said with pancreatic cancer predicted to be the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths by 2020, the medical breakthrough by Harvard's scientists is a “major victory” for the cannabis industry.

“The significance here is that the life expectancy for cancer patients could significantly increase. We in Jamaica have to continue to do our part in ensuring that we are ready to capitalise on medicinal marijuana and the important role it is playing in scientific discovery,” he said.

Scientists from Harvard University's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in their study published in the journal Frontiers of Oncology on July 23, revealed that a chemical found in cannabis has demonstrated “significant therapy potential” for treating pancreatic cancer.

The resulting drug, 'FBL-03G', is said to be a derivative of a cannabis flavonoid, the naturally occurring compound found in plants, vegetables and fruits which, among other things, provides their colour.

The results, according to Dr Ngwa, one of the study's researchers, are “major”.

“The most significant conclusion is that tumour-targeted delivery of flavonoids, derived from cannabis, enabled both local and metastatic tumour cell kill, significantly increasing survival from pancreatic cancer,” he noted.

Dr Ngwa said the significance of this is that, because pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in later stages, once it has spread, and the flavonoids have proven capable of destroying, killing other cancer cells, this could mean the life expectancy of those with the condition could increase,” the noted academic added.

“If successfully translated clinically, this will have major impact in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.”


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