Namibia: Unam Makes Breakthrough

Musa Zimunya | 05 Jul 2011
Windhoek — The University of Namibia, through research by Professor Enos Kiremire, has developed metal complexes that could prove to be the ammunition needed to battle malaria.

Seven novel metal complexes were tested in vitro against the chloroquine resistant strain of the Malaria Parasite, Plasmodium Falciparum, while comparing the results to a standard control drug used internationally.

According to Kiremire, the compounds yielded results that were better than the control drug. He also stated that some of the compounds they developed are three times more effective than the control drug.

Kiremire told New Era that these were the initial stages to begin further research on the complexes.

"In research, people can take these parasites from infected people or even the mosquito and then develop these parasites so as to run tests on them. After we developed these metal compounds, we tested them against these parasites and discovered they were highly active against them," said Kiremire.

That alone guaranteed the university and the professor that they had a genuine article that could prove the difference in future. And since, seven patent letters were issued to UNAM and Prof. Kiremire as the co-owners in Namibia.

The World International Patent Organisation (WIPO), a United States organisation with 184 member states, granted Novelty and Inudstrial applicability to all the applications.

Moreover, the compound has the potential to be converted into drugs and could help kill malaria parasites and cure some millions of children who die every year from malaria.

"This is only the foundation, but a very important foundation. These compounds can now be tested to explore the options they can provide in the medical arena. We need to proceed to test them and determine that they will not have negative side effects on people. "Also, we only tested them on malaria parasites, but options can be explored to see if it can work against anything else," he added.

He said the novel metal compound was a combination of an organic compound and a metal synthesised to create the compound, while adding that it acted as a booster when used with the most basic quinine, boosting its efficiency.

Nevertheless, when asked what challenges the project has faced so far, the only challenge he outlined was the lack of sustainable funding for research and laboratory equipment, chemicals, as well as to pay for people working on the research.

"We currently use the same laboratories that the students use. This should not happen because there should be a separate lab for research," he said.

We are going to test as many chemical compounds as possible to find out which ones have these biological activities; a lot more testing to see if they can attack other protozoa. The next phase will be to ascertain if they attack humans or animals

Kiremire was also asked on the prospect of 'drying' non-renewable resources such as metal and he reasoned that minimal metal would be used.

"It is not like we are building a building. We use minimal metal as you can imagine how big a tablet is and its compositional proportion will have very little metal.

Even so, there are some metals that boost our immune system as well. We can now start thinking of using the metals we make here, instead of importing.

Meanwhile, the Unam website ran a story praising the institution and Kiremire saying : "This is an historical and tremendous achievement for UNAM and the Prof E Kiremire, Namibia and Africa as a whole, as it is the first ever patent applications emanating research coming from UNAM."

"This achievement should lay the foundation to a pharmaceutical development industry in Namibia, with solutions applicable to millions in Africa and around the world," it read. Ultimately, the professor had words of encouragement to the university, students as well as potential investors in the project.

"What I can tell you is that there is an institution in the United States of America, Emory University. They discovered a drug that is used as an ARV and battles HIV. Because of that compound, they get royalties that surpass US$500million because of their invention they patented. Now, UNAM has patented and the possibilities are endless. Attracting investors, companies and individuals will boost the image of the university, and Namibia as a nation."

"It will market Unam and Namibia internationally. It is a break through and thanks to Unam, Petrol Funf of Namibia and NAMSOV fishing company, this research has been fruitful. We can only hope that more investors sign on and help put Namibia on the map," he urged.

However, due to the confidentiality and sensitivity of the information, no further detail can be disclosed to the public.