Agon wins IPA prize

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Benin is this year’s winner of the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2016. The winner, Dr. Valentin Agon who was pitted against nine other nominees, is the first person from Benin to grab the coveted prize that honours pratitioners in the innovation space.

Agon, who specialises in alternative medicine, has developed Api-Paul, an anti malaria drug treatment made from natural plant extract. According to available information, the treatment is relatively cheaper than available anti-malaria drugs and has great inhibitory effects on 3D7 strains of plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria.

The winning development comes very apt at a time when Africa is strugging with deaths related to malaria. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 88% malaria cases and 90% percent of malaria deaths reported globally according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) 2015 report. In Africa, some governments spend up to 40% of their public health budgets on malaria treatment.

“Api-Paul manifests as a fast rate of malaria parasite clearance from the blood following short term treatment, with relatively lower doses,” said Agon. It is avalable in tablets, capsules or syrup. The drug has been approved in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Central African Republic because of its therapeutic and non toxic effect. The first prize award carried a cash price of $100 000.

The two runners up who each pocketed $25 000 respectively were from Nigeria and South Africa. Dr. Imogen Wright from South Africa’s innovation-Exatype, is a software solution that enables healthcare workers to determine HIV positive patients’ reponsiveness to ARV drug treatment. According to WHO, 71% of people living with HIV reside in Africa. Until now, governments’ response has been to ensure access to treatment for all. However, a growing number of people on anti-retroviral (ARVs) are resistant to drug regimens leading to failure of the therapy thus exacerbating the continent’s HIV and AIDS crisis.

The other runner-up, Dr. Eddy Agbo created a Urine Test for Malaria (UMT). It is a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device that can diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes. The technology detects malaria parasite proteins in the patient’s urine with fever due to malaria. “The UMT is simple and affordable, and a potential game changer in managing and saving lives across Africa,” said Agbo.

The other nominees for this year’s award are John Theron from South Africa, Samule Rigu from Kenya, Kit Vaughan from South Africa, Dr. Youssef Rashed from Egypt, Andre Nel from South Africa, Gdwin Bwenson from Nigeria and Olufemi Odeleye from Nigeria. 

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