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Jamaican Scientist Excel

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#Jamaica, November 2, 2017 – Kingston – Within recent years, Jamaicans have been recording significant achievements in the field of science, locally, regionally and globally, through endeavors in research and development.  Notable among them are Executive Chairman of the Eden Group of Companies, Dr. Henry Lowe; Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science and Technology and Director of the Natural Products Institute at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus, Dr. Rupika Delgoda; and Lecturer in the UWI’s Medical Science Faculty, Dr. Simone Badal.

Dr. Lowe spearheaded the landmark development of the drug ‘Chrysoeriol’, a derivative of cannabis (ganja) for treating acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).   AML is classified as a rare cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterised by rapidly growing abnormal white blood cells that build up in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. It is the most common acute leukaemia affecting adults, and its incidence increases with age.

Dr. Lowe and his diligent team of researchers were granted coveted United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Orphan Drug Designation earlier this year.  This is awarded to novel drugs or biologics that treat rare diseases or conditions affecting less than 200,000 patients, as is the case with AML. It qualifies the developer for a seven-year period of US marketing exclusivity upon FDA approval of the drug.

Other benefits include tax credits for clinical research qualification for annual grant funding, clinical trial design assistance, and the waiving of filing fees under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act.

Speaking at a ceremony in Kingston earlier this year, Dr. Lowe said the Orphan Drug designation, a first for the island and wider Caribbean, “places us (Jamaica) in (the) very enviable position (of being part of) a very exclusive club of a few countries… involved in drug research, innovation and development”.

These, he pointed out, include nations in North America, mainly the United States, and Europe.

Consequent on the award, the Eden Gardens Group, which includes US-based research and development facility, Flavocure Biotech, and the Biotech R&D Institute, situated on the UWI’s Mona Campus, will benefit from grant funding totaling US$250,000 for each of the next three years to complete the work on Chrysoeriol’s development.  He indicated that based on the work undertaken, thus far, “there is still a few million dollars (more that needs) to be spent to get us to market”.

Against this background, Dr. Lowe said there is a potential US$3.5 million in additional FDA funding support that may be forthcoming to fast-track that work, adding that “we are going after it”.

“Normally, when you get to the stage we have reached, it takes another five to 12 years to go to market.   Here, we can go to market between two to three years, if not earlier… but we have to move quickly,” he added.

Prime Minster, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, lauded Dr. Lowe, noting that the Orphan Drug designation was a “practical manifestation of (the) theory of research and development stimulating innovation which drives economic growth”.

“This achievement resulting from combining knowledge, technology and entrepreneurship leading to innovation by Dr. Lowe, is just reward for his hard work and dedication to science,” Mr. Holness further said.

Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, also praised Dr. Lowe and his team, noting that “as a scientist, I can say without any reservation that to get to this point took some level of commitment and belief in this particular work”.

Dr. Wheatley said the FDA award underlined the fact that “we have that inherent intellectual capacity to do quality research and development in Jamaica”.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, said Chrysoeriol “will certainly have a major impact on the development of the medicinal cannabis industry, once again putting Jamaica at the forefront of the scientific development of the industry”.

“Jamaica has now proven to the world that we have the capabilities to be a world-class player, not only in science and technology, but also in drug research and development,” he added.

For Drs. Delgoda and Badal, who co-authored the text ‘Pharmacognosy: Fundamentals, Applications and Strategy’, the publication represents a crowning moment in their careers.

Pharmacognosy is the study of medicinal drugs derived from plants and other natural sources, and the textbook is expected to be integral to tertiary training delivery in the subject area.

Dr. Badal said the project represents the combined efforts of a number of distinguished scholars around the world.  She explained that the idea to publish the text partly stemmed from her concerns with the quality of material that was available to her while teaching pharmacognosy at another tertiary institution.  Dr. Badal said she discussed the matter with her family, who suggested that she give consideration to publishing a textbook.

Noting that the idea was “simple yet profound”, Dr. Badal said “working in conjunction with divinely orchestrated events, (plus) the value of the inputs of my co-editor (Dr. Delgoda) and several other authors and reviewers, have birthed this textbook that we celebrate”.

Dr. Delgoda indicated that 28 of the authors came from the Caribbean, of which 24 were based at the UWI’s Mona Campus, noting that “without their significant contributions, this book would not have been possible”.   She also acknowledged the “sustained collaborations and outstanding research” in natural products by UWI Mona-based researchers, “whose work actually inspired many aspects of this book.”   She further said that “based on the capacity that we have here, on Campus, this book will become very useful”.

UWI Pro Vice-Chancellor and UWI Mona Principal, Professor Archibald McDonald, said the institution is proud of the lecturers’ achievement, noting that the institution “is always pleased to support the work of academics and researchers who are making significant contributions to their subject areas.   He said the text brings to the fore interesting and new research and insights into the dynamics of pharmacognosy and the development of this branch of science.

“The book provides a comprehensive background into what pharmacognosy is, and then delves into a discussion into its role in traditional medicine, how it is used in botany and the development of plant- and animal-based pharmaceuticals, just to mention a few highlights of the work,” the Pro Vice-Chancellor noted.

Against this background, Professor McDonald said he is optimistic that the text “will certainly help to fill yet another important knowledge gap in pharmaceutical and medical research”.

Dr. Wheatley lauded Drs. Badal and Delgoda while emphasizing the Government’s commitment to capitalizing on the benefits to be derived from the “rapidly growing” nutraceutical industry, this, he said, by harnessing Jamaica’s vast plant resources.   He said the text “is a (pivotal) tool that can be used to guide the (utilization) of our natural resources in a sustainable manner to catalyze Jamaica’s economic and social enhancement”.

Distinguished State University of New York Professor, Gene Morse, is the publication’s chief reviewer, and there are several local and international contributors to the publication.

By: Douglas McIntosh (JIS)

 

 

 

 

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RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – During the afternoon of Wednesday 19th May 2022, a call was made to the RTCIPF Marine Operations Centre via VHF radio that a suspicious vessel was sighted around 35 miles south east of Providenciales. The operator immediately updated colleagues within the Royal Turks and Caicos Marine Branch who made their way to the location and with the support of a US Coast Guard (USCG) plane, safely intercepted an overloaded vessel carrying irregular migrants.

Following delicate coordination and the stabilization of the boat which was unsafe, severely overcrowded and none of the occupants was wearing life vests, the RTCIPF marine unit was joined by a second RTCIPF Marine crew and a third vessel crewed with TCI Regiment and Tactical Unit officers to support the delicate operation.

The vessel was carefully offloaded at sea to ensure the safety of the occupants after which, the boat was towed to South Dock where it arrived around 10:30pm with a total of 110 persons (84 males and 24 females and 2 juveniles) who were then taken into custody by the Immigration Department.

Superintendent Martyn Ball said, “Once again working with partners we have safely intercepted another vessel that was overcrowded, unsafe, risking the lives of those on board. This demonstrates the professionalism and dedication of the RTCIPF Marine Unit, working together with colleagues in the Marine Operations Centre, USCG, TCI Regiment, TCI Immigration and the RTCIPF Tactical Unit to save lives and keep our borders here in the Turks and Caicos safe.  In the last couple of months around 768 individuals on 8 dangerous vessels have been intercepted which is testament to the professionalism of our teams here in the TCI and I am very grateful to the passing vessel who raised the alarm.  I would appeal to anyone if you have any information relating to such activity that you call Crimes Stoppers free and anonymously on 1-800-8477 (TIPS) not only will you be saving lives but also supporting our national security here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

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List of Demands for UK, presented by Overseas Territories at May 4-6 meetings

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#UnitedKingdom, May 19, 2022 – Speakers of the House from Overseas Territories in the Caribbean met with the UK House of Commons in the first ever Speaker-led conference to discuss issues relating to governance, climate and visibility in the House of Commons and provide the UK with an idea of what they say is necessary for OTs to survive.

The meeting held on May 4th to 6th was attended by Speakers from Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, the UK House of Commons and a representative from Gibraltar.

A communique released after the event made it clear that democracy was of utmost import to the small island states.

“We reaffirmed the central role played by legislatures in democratic life, our commitment to the principles of democracy in our legislatures, the sacredness of democracy and the need for partnership to sustain it. As our legislatures bring together all components of society, they are the cornerstones of democratic governance; they represent the wills and expressions of the people through scrutiny and democratic process,” it said.

Governance

In order to support the legislature the OTs requested that the UK government provide funding for them to have a ‘dedicated building in which to carry out its activities and duties’ as well as investment in the training of officials and sharing of best practices. The Speakers also requested that funding be provided for any constitutional reviews should the issue arise.

To ensure that the overseas territories have a voice in legislation in the UK that affects them the UK Speaker promised to explore opportunities for OTs to scrutinise these laws . Additionally the UK Speaker said the house of commons was willing to help facilitate parliamentary representation of the Overseas Territories at the UK Parliament if the territories decided they wanted to.

The Speakers requested that outside of this the UK provide detailed Impact Assessments for any bill that would affect them

Climate Change 

Aptly described as a climate emergency in the communique the speakers noted that while the OTs were bastions of nature  the volatility with which climate change was occurring would directly impact overseas territories first and worst.

“The Overseas Territories are custodians of internationally important habitats, which span the globe from the Antarctic to the Caribbean, the South Atlantic to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans with different geographical challenges…We recognise that the Overseas Territories have multiple levels of vulnerability including economic constraints and challenges of infrastructure which mean the impacts of the climate emergency can result in huge environmental disasters and economic impacts” it said.

Thus the countries called for long term, strategic action by the UK including dedicated and transparent funding to replace lost EU funding caused by Brexit. They also thanked the UK for their commitment to biodiversity.

The territories ended on a firm note emphasising their right to self-determination saying, “We reiterate our shared belief that the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, as enshrined in the UN Charter, applies to the peoples of the Overseas Territories.”

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JAMAICA: Bust of Labour Movement Activist Agnes Bernard Unveiled

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#Jamaica, May 19, 2022 – A bust of Agnes “Aggie” Bernard, a stalwart in Jamaica’s labour movement, has been erected at the Kingston Craft Market located downtown.

The sculpture, which rests atop an existing monument in her honour, was commissioned in partnership between the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

It was unveiled during a ceremony on Wednesday (May 18) to kick off Workers’ Week from May 15 to 23 under the theme ‘Repositioning Jamaica’s Labour Market post COVID-19’.

Speaking at the unveiling, Culture Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, said that Ms. Bernard was one of the foremost pioneering women activists in Jamaica’s labour movement during the 1938 labour riots that were pivotal in Jamaica’s political development.

“We honour one of the truly outstanding women of Jamaica, a heroine in her own right. Aggie was truly one of the great and faithful servants of the labour movement in Jamaica,” she said.

“At the age of 28 in 1938, she was there when Alexander Bustamante, who had decided to lead the workers, and Garveyite, St. William Grant, were arrested fighting for the cause of striking workers. Seeing all of this, Aggie was moved to lend a hand to the cause and what a mighty hand that was,” Ms. Grange recounted.

The Minster said that the decision not only changed Aggie’s life, but it had a signal effect on the labour movement in Jamaica.

“She used up all the money she had at the time, the grand sum of five shillings and sixpence to buy bread, coffee and sugar for the hungry strikers. Admiring and supporting her move, sympathisers stepped in and gave money for food,” Ms. Grange said.

In 1976, Aggie was honoured with the Order of Distinction in recognition of her outstanding service to the trade union movement and her contribution to nationhood. The Organization of American States (OAS) also awarded her a special certificate of merit. She died on October 7, 1980 and was given an official funeral and buried at National Heroes Park.

Ms. Grange said that the bust of Aggie Bernard is a tribute to the workers of Jamaica and is one of the Legacy Projects for the country’s diamond jubilee.

For his part, Labour Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, in a speech read by Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dione Jennings, said Workers’ Week recognises workers across Jamaica for their unwavering contribution to the economic growth and development of the society.

He said that this year’s theme recognises that “if Jamaica is to recover lost ground and continue on the road to economic prosperity, it will be the Jamaican worker who will have to redouble our efforts, in every sector, to improve our productivity and increase our earning power”.

The Minister noted that Jamaica has come a long way since the devastating labour riots in 1938, when the workers took action all over the island to press for improved working conditions.

Those actions, he said, led to the establishment of the Minimum Wage Act and a Labour Department, which was the precursor to the current Ministry of Labour, both in 1938.

“No longer do we, as a people, have to resort to rioting, strikes and other counter-productive measures to have our voices heard. We now settle our grievances by engaging an established conciliatory process,” Mr. Samuda said.

“In spite of the recent cases of unrest, the peace and industrial harmony which we generally enjoy has come at great cost. And so, we gather here, at this, the Monument to the Workers of 1938, which stands as a reminder of the bravery and tenacity of the workers and leaders, who risked their lives to [improve] the condition of labour in Jamaica. The nation salutes you, our unsung heroes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said the Government respects and appreciates the rights of “every single Jamaican to advocate for better and improved working conditions”.

“The Government is not lost as to the concerns of the workers. The Government is committed in every way to ensure that the workers are rewarded in a meaningful way,” Mr. McKenzie said.

 

Release: Latonya Linton

Release: JIS

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