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Dr. Endege Biotechnology Plan in Kenya University Project

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Dr. Wilson Endege Biotechnology Plan Dr. Wilson Endege Biotechnology Plan

Over 100 coutries in the world today have a life expectancy of over 75 years; Kenya life expenctancy is recorded at 65 years. Dr. Wilson Endege, a biotechnology scientist, who has five patents looks to advance Kenya life expectancy. He says his Kenya University Project -Biotechnology plan that will be implemented alongside the University Development Plan at Taita Taveta will produce more than 20 medicine and vaccine products as he and Diaspora contribute to expand the current $1 billion biotechnology sector in Kenya in a $414 billion global sector. Will the biotechnology industry he sets up lead to an affordable vaccine for Malaria? Dr. Endege answers on biotechonology.

What is Biotechnology?

When defined in simple terms and language, biotechnology is technology based on biology. In historical terms, biotechnology at the simplest level goes back to when human beings started moving away from the hunter and gatherer way of life and began cultivating crops and utilizing animal products derived from tamed/domesticated animals about 10,000 years ago, so as to provide a more stable supply of food and the accompanying byproducts. Humans have been using the biological processes of microorganisms for about 6,000 years to produce useful products like bread and cheese, as well as alcoholic drinks like wine

How is Biotechnology different in countries or communities?

In the last 40 years, while the western countries have gone from practicing biotechnology at a macro level—breeding animals and crops to intensively focusing on practicing biotechnology at the micro level, while many of the Africa and many of the other developing countries still practice biotechnology at the macro-level.  

When did the biotechnology as is today in universities and industrial companies emerge?  

The biotechnology industry emerged in the 1970s, based largely on a new recombinant DNA technique whose details were published in 1973 by Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert Boyer of the University of California, San Francisco. Recombinant DNA is a method of making proteins— such as human insulin and other therapies—in cultured cells under controlled manufacturing conditions. Boyer went on to co-found Genentech, which grew to one of biotechnology’s largest company by market capitalization. 

What has the biotechnology industry achieved so far?

Biotechnology has created more than 200 new therapies and vaccines, including products to treat cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and autoimmune disorders. There are more than 400 biotech drug products and vaccines currently in clinical trials targeting more than 200 diseases, including various cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and arthritis.

What is the global estimated market share of the industry in the $72 trillion global economy?  

The global market for biotechnology is estimated to reach a value of USD 414.5 billion by the end of 2017.

How would you compare the biotechnology in U.S and Kenya based on benefit to residents?

The simple answer is that there is no comparison on how the two industries have benefited the residents in the two countries. There are many reasons why this is so, but the main three reasons would be that while biotechnology is being performed and applied  at the micro-level in the USA and other western countries, Kenya and Africa are still applying biotechnology at the macro-level.  The second is the lack of infrastructure and capacity to perform the required research and develop products that will benefit residents of Kenya locally. Third but not last is the fact that a significant majority of Kenyans cannot afford the prices of products developed in the USA for obvious product pricing reasons that are based on production costs that include research and development budgets.

How will scientists like yourself develop the Biotechnology sector in Kenya and Africa to produce the medicines, vaccines and other products that help people and animals live healthier lives and fight diseases?

The Biotechnology sector at the micro level is hardly developed in Kenya and the wider African continent. The key thing is for us not to start by re-inventing the wheel but instead by leveraging wherever wealth of knowledge that has been developed to date by others to help us leapfrog the industry to where it can start benefitting people in Africa. This approach will allow for the beginnings of a nascent biotechnology industry. More importantly is to also focus on training and equipping the right manpower with required knowledge and tools required for the industry to flourish. If the above can be implemented in the right way, then there will be many opportunities for many individuals to develop biotechnology based products for the African market place, while building the badly needed knowledge base that will lead to greater things for the industry which can be currently estimated to be worth in the tens of billions of dollars on the African continent. 

Live expectancy rate is said to be higher where there is a strong biotechnology sector. How can biotechnology advance the life expectancy in Kenya from the current 65 years to over 75 years that over 100 countries in the world have surpassed? 

Currently, it is estimated that Kenya spends about US $ 1 billion on pharmaceuticals.  A significant portion of this sum goes towards paying for very expensive medicines that only the very well off can afford. It is without a doubt that if these products were produced locally they would be much more affordable to a majority of the population and this would be reflected by better health outcomes that would lead to longer life expectancy and an improvement in the quality of life overall.

How many products do you look to have your biotechnology plan produce? 

The biotechnology plan is focused on producing about 20 biopharmaceutical products when fully implemented. This will have to be phased in based on a number of factors like market size and the deployment of the required technology that will be applied to generate each product.  The product line is expected to grow above 20 as additional products get developed.  Additional products will be developed in the molecular diagnostics and vaccine production line as we diversify from the biopharmaceutical product line.

Taita Taveta County has one of the widest range of animal species, plants species and insects. Was this a factor in your decision to implement the Biotechnology plan at the county alongside the university plan? 

Tsavo National Park with its diverse fauna and flora is definitely a big attraction besides the availability of  ample space on which seeds of building a future biotechnology/technology park can be planted for future expansion to provide education and opportunities for all, now and future generations. The rich flora in the neighboring land like the Tsavo National Park is expected to foster the area for research and discovery of Ecobiotic bioactive molecules which will lead to new medicines that are built on Kenya’s traditional herbal medicines which have been used to treat different ailments for generations. The only difference in the new approach that will be undertaken is that the development will be done at the molecular micro-level as opposed to the traditional macro-level that delivers treatment without knowing and isolating the bioactive ingredients/molecules.

Will the biotechnology industry you set up achieve an affordable vaccine against Malaria parasite? 

Malaria vaccine production will not be our initial focus for many different reasons with the major one being the ability to assemble the required infrastrure and manpower. It is however important point out that there is very well organized malaria vaccine development work that is funded through Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI)  through funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration will other funding organizations and leading labs in the parasitology field. This effort has brought us even closer to an effective malaria vaccine through collaborative efforts with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) that is currently undergoing clinical trials.  This MVI/GSK vaccine will help many people  including children who are adversily affected by malaria. There are efforts to improve on the current vaccine by MVI and this makes malaria vaccine development an area that is getting good attention at present.

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