Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | December 5, 2010
Home : Business
Scientist launches new bio-tech institute - Lowe to grow J$25-m investment in plant medicine, research
Dr Henry Lowe
Several investors led by well-known Jamaican scientist, Dr Henry Lowe, have launched a new business with the hope of turning an initial J$25-million investment into an investment over time of more than J$100 million to develop and market medicines and other health products from local Jamaican plants.

The goal for them is a healthy slice of a multi-billion dollar global nutraceuticals industry.

The new Bio-Tech R&D Institute Limited was launched Thursday night and will operate from the University of the West Indies.

The institute, the people behind it said, will focus on the development and commercialisation of pharmaceuticals from various plants grown in Jamaica.

Dr Lowe, the former president and chief executive of Blue Cross of Jamaica, the major health insurance provider which was sold to Sagicor Life Jamaica, said the organisation will also be introducing to Jamaica cutting-edge biotechnology such as stem-cell research and development.

He said the institute's health-care emphasis would be on cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems, which are major chronic diseases in Jamaica and elsewhere.

new opportunity

"It is opening a new opportunity for us through science and technology," Lowe told Sunday Business ahead of last Thursday's launch.

"We will have to find non-traditional export markets, and this can be done using our local natural resources," he said.

Dr Lowe is joined as principal shareholder of the institute by the Environmental Health Foundation, Dr Joseph Bryant of the University of Maryland Medical School, and Federated Pharmaceutical/Lacelles Limited.

Lowe said the shareholders had put in an initial capital investment of J$25 million, which he hopes will be doubled within the next two years.

Additional company value is to be derived from equipment and intellectual property.

The Jamaican scientist and former corporate bigwig was involved in the development of canasol, the first commercial medicinal product to have been made from marijuana.

It is his intention to take the new firm public within three years.

"We are hoping that within the next three years that we would have grown enough so that we go to the junior stock exchange for capital investment," Lowe said.

Alpha Prostate Formula

The institute will be working closely with stakeholders, the University of the West Indies, the University of Technology, Northern Caribbean University, and the Science Research Centre, each of which will be issued, at no cost to them, with 2.5 per cent of the total shares of the institute.

One of the first plant-based natural products which the institute is slated to produce will be Alpha Prostate Formula, a nutraceutical that contains isolates, which, according to Dr Lowe, has been shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties, particularly potent against prostate cancer.

"This is the first of a major new line of nutraceuticals to be developed for the local and international market beginning in the first quarter of 2011, and to be manufactured by Federated Pharmaceuticals labs," he said.

Lowe is expecting that in the next five years, Jamaica will be able to corner between five and 10 per cent of the global nutraceutical business.

The institute is also expected to provide training for local scientists and create entrepreneurial opportunities and to bring approximately $100 million in private-sector capital to scientific research and development in Jamaica.

dionne.rose@gleanerjm.com


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