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Guyanese get cash to search for cancer-fighter in corilla

Dr. Emmanuel Cummings inks a research agreement for his team to examine and isolate the cancer-fighting property of corilla. Looking on are Vice Chancellor Professor Jacob Opadeyi and Education Minister, Priya Manickchand.

University of Guyana (UG) Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine, Dr. Emmanuel Cummings is spearheading a study to extract a chemical from corilla that he hopes can help fight a variety of cancers.

“We have recently found that it has some anti-cancer properties and so I have decided to do this because is the third major cause of death in Guyana,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

The investigation would be done at the Britain-based University of Central Lancashire where cancer cells – brain, prostate, breast, liver etc.- would be grown and tested with the corilla property. “We’ll be testing this active ingredient, hopefully anti-cancer, to see what effect it will have on cancer,” he said.

Dr. Cummings hopes that if there is a breakthrough, it can trigger a stimulus for Guyana to explore the medicinal properties of other plants in Guyana.

The corilla anti-cancer project will cost US$49,000 for the team of three persons to conduct the study over the next two years. The others are Professor Jaipaul Singh and Guyanese Pharmacist Kareshma Jeeboo.
Dr. Cummings said he and his team hope to build on the work that has been already done showing that corilla has “some anti-cancer properties.” “We just need to isolate it, purify it and test it,” he said.

Aiming ultimately to develop a new cancer treatment that originates from Guyana, he said the new local university would get the patent for it and would put the country on the map in the global battle against the killer disease.

UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi confirmed that that tertiary institution would be the rights holder but the researchers and their surviving beneficiaries would benefit from royalties if the discoveries are commercialized. 

Cummings is one of eight grant awardees by the World Bank and the University of Guyana who have been awarded a total of US$329,000 to in several areas aimed at strengthening science and technology.

The batch of eight was selected from among 18 submissions that were peer reviewed and unanimously approved after achieving a minimum of 65 percent. The Vice Chancellor assured that the research would be properly marketed as part of a wider marketing plan by the institution. “Your research is not going to end up on the shelf. It’s not going to be some paper published and we talk from it. We start looking what we can market inside it,” he said.

Addressing the presentation of the grants while a group of UG workers was outside protesting against the tardy payment of salaries and allowances, Minister of Education suggested that the institution would be better off if persons did not engage in raucous behaviour. Following on comments by the Vice Chancellor that several researchers were vexed because their proposals were not approved, Manickchand remarked that “Perhaps we have not developed the culture at UG of being able to make proposals in a transparent system which is expected by the Government and demanded by the World Bank… and that for me is telling, it is sad.”

UG is about to issue another call for proposals as part of efforts to boost Science and Technology at the institution. The World Bank is also expected to fund the development of laboratories and human resources as part of that overall thrust.