Arthritis: JKUAT Don’s plant medicinal properties discovery honoured


A Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) researcher has received honour from the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) for her scientific research and invention efforts that offer hope to patients with arthritis.

KIPI feted Dr. Christine Ong’ayo Wangia, a senior lecturer who teaches in the School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology/Pharmacognosy for “discovering a Kenyan medicinal plant that possess antiarthritic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can be harnessed and used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and further applying scientific methods to protect the vital information by filing a patent with KIPI.

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention of a product or process which offers a new way of doing something or presents a technical solution to a problem.

Dr. Wangia is among 20 other women scientists that got honoured by KIPI during celebrations to mark the World Intellectual Property (WIP) Day organized by KIPI to recognize and spotlight on the intellectual creations of women researchers/inventors in line with the theme of WIPO 2018: Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity.

“This recognition means a lot to me. I faced many challenges but God helped me to pull through. I have discovered that a Kenyan medicinal plant possessed antiarthritic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties for use in rheumatoid arthritis using scientific methods and protecting that information by filing a patent with KIPI,” an elated Dr. Wangia stated.

Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Adan Mohamed officiated at the awards ceremony in honour of the women innovators and recognised their “brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity, and courage in the field of innovation, invention technology and business.”

Besides lack of funds which she said impacted on the timelines of her research work which took longer than initially anticipated, the inventor said, she juggled many balls– “shuttling between six laboratories in JKUAT and the Kenya Medical Research Institute was tedious, moving with samples from one lab to another. If researchers could conduct research under one roof it would ease their work and significantly enhance their output,” says Dr. Wangia.

“We have the God-given talent of multi-tasking. With proper planning and discipline, it is possible to attain your goals,” explains Dr. Wangia, adding her sights are now set on giving back to the University through mentoring researchers who are keen to go beyond the laboratory research to embrace innovation and invention.

Dr. Wangia appeals for capacity building support to undertake short training on the manufacture of herbal products in Japan or China to enable her gain practical skills and knowledge that can contribute to the healthcare component of the Big Four Agenda.

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis and the current drugs for managing the disease are costly, with several adverse effects which compromise patience compliance. For instance, gastrointestinal bleeding irritation, bone marrow suppression predispose a patient to infections since the body’s immunity has been suppressed. Others are kidney failure, cardiovascular toxicity which can lead to heart failure to name a few.

The Don says compounds in the plant species she has identified are novel, unlike the ones currently in the market.

According to World Health Organization, rheumatoid arthritis is the second cause of physical disability globally, with a prevalence of 1% and the most affected are women aged over 50 years.

Dr. Wangia’s herbal drug is set for clinical trials in patients next year. She plans to write a book on standardization of herbal products in Kenya, giving insights on plant collection, phytochemical screening, safety studies, and bioassays, up to the formulation of various dosage forms.”

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