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The Caribbean’s plant-based therapeutics and nutraceutical Sectors can generate billions

 chainy root
Finding chainy root in the wild

[NEW YORK] – Whether you are an investor, business leader or capitalist you are likely missing out on billions of dollars in potential investment earnings in the Caribbean’s plant-based therapeutics, nutraceutical, pharmacology and clinical trials industry.

The Caribbean is home to more than 2000 medicinal plants―of which the applications of many have been chronicled and narrated as part of the region’s traditional knowledge pool.  The potential for the people of the Caribbean, its diaspora and international trading partners are tremendous.

“The sector holds big opportunities to driving sustainable development for the region.” “To benefit from the region’s unique biodiversity researchers and investors must pour on the investment growing green shoots, sprouts and economic recovery for the Caribbean and its partners”, said Meegan Scott of Magate Wildhorse, the initiating private sector partner for the Market Systems Development Program.

The programme is designed to accelerate the growth in contribution of universities to GDP through commercialization, creation of intellectual property, businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovation in the aforementioned and emergent sectors.

Investment opportunities in the wide-range of medicinal plants and plant-based medicine, and in  the growing natural nutritional supplements and cosmetic niches were discussed in a radio program specially arranged for Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2020.

Damian Cohall PhD
Damian Cohall PhD

The program brought together Dr. Sylvia Mitchell and  Dr. Damian Cohall― two leading plant researchers from the region.  Dr. Mitchell is a senior lecturer and researcher in medicinal plant biotechnology at the Mona Campus, The University of the West Indies (UWI).  Dr. Cohall is the Deputy Dean (Preclinical Sciences) and a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

“Anything you can think of, there are plants for it (in the Caribbean), whether it’s cold, fever, antibacterial or antifungal,’’ said Dr. Sylvia Mitchell.

She pointed out that the Caribbean was rich in traditional as we well as in Western Scientific knowledge of how to use its plants in medicine ― though there is still much more work to be done.

“We can respond to diseases,’’ said Ghana-born, Jamaica-raised Mitchell, who heads the medicinal plant biotechnology research group. “We have something even for COVID-19 but nobody is listening to us. We need to value our biodiversity.’’

It is clear that the region offers much more than the well-known case of Jamaica, the rosy periwinkle and the cancer medication― vinblastine or medical cannabis.

The radio program produced by Meegan Scott and co-hosted by Andrew Sharpe of “Caribbean Diaspora Connect” presented an in-depth discussion of  “Investment Opportunities in –  Nutraceuticals, Therapeutics & Ethnopharmacology’’.  The program was organized by Magate Wildhorse, Toronto and New York and aired on WBCA 102 FM.

Jamaica-born Dr. Cohall, said many Caribbean plants contain “pharmaceutically active ingredients’’. He shared that their uses have been “scientifically validated’’ through “clinical research’’.

“It is not as if we are starting from the ground. What we’re now looking for are opportunities to invest and build the technology and bring these plants and their uses to a commercial scale, where we can then use these products as potential drivers of our economies.’’

Dr. Cohall is an ethno-pharmacologist, who has a deep interest in use of plants as medicine and its commercialization. Both Cohall and Mitchell have published research on medicinal plants in the Caribbean.

Mitchell gave some insights on the commercial potential of the 2,000 medicinal plants in the region― “We have medicinal plants  that could be made into products that go from the very simple dried, to the very complex,’’  she said. “A study done of Montserrat alone recorded no fewer than 256 medicinal plants.’’

The Caribbean’s medicinal plants include fever grass, aloe, cannabis, ginger, turmeric and moringa.

“People now are making a lot of different products ready for the market and we still have so many more opportunities for the future,’’ said Mitchell.

She highlighted the “Chainy root”, endemic to Jamaica, and used in root tonics and drinks across the region.  Like the “chainy root”, many of the plants are still be assessed for a full understanding of their medicinal properties and in some instances, to identify their biological names.

“What we’re doing requires the help of the diaspora, especially in terms of the markets,’’ she added. “We want to partner with those overseas. We know we can go faster if we have more people to assist us.’’

Cohall said through collaboration, technology transfer, assistance with feasibility studies and market research, the application and receipt of patents and licences, the Caribbean’s natural medicinal products can move into “mainstream medicine’’ and generate billions of dollars.

“There are far more extensive opportunities that can be built on. All we need is the technology to move these ideas into commercial products,’’ he said.

Meegan Scott, says the programme will serve to increase the value of agricultural food crops, as well as the medicinal plants plus create decent work.  The programme will include incubators, accelerators, animated maps, market development and supporting physical and virtual economic development clusters.

She invited diasporans and mainstream business leaders as well as research institutions to invest and partner in the initiative. The radio program was intended to create awareness as well as to kick-off a campaign to raise US $600,000 for the programme. Would be partners and investors are invited to contact Meegan Scott at:

The programme will be executed in accordance with the Nagoya Protocol (2010). Any research or commercialization agreements will cover all use of the plants for ensuring fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization to the Islands and its people.



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