FABA (For Africa By Africans): Anti-malaria Drug
(A column highlighting scientific, technological, engineering, and design innovation in Africa)
Benin native Valentin Agon M.D. was the overall winner of the US$100,000 2016 Innovation Prize for Africa for his groundbreaking anti-malaria drug, which serves as a natural, cheaper alternative to existing drugs already on the market.
Dr. Agon decided to research natural remedies to help the fight against malaria, a preventable mosquito-borne disease that kills hundreds of thousands each year in sub-Saharan Africa, with children under the age of 5 accounting for most of the deaths. The World Health Organization reports that the region last year was home to 89 percent of the world’s roughly 214 million malaria cases and 91 percent of the 438,000 deaths.
Dr. Agon developed Api-Palu as an anti-malaria drug treatment made from the natural extract of local plants, which made it cheaper to produce and more cost effective for patients. The drug works on the 3D7 strains of plasmodium falciparum, the malaria-causing agent, and has no toxic effects. According to Dr. Agnon, the drug manifests at a fast rate of malaria parasite clearance from the blood after short-term treatment with relatively lower doses. It currently is available in tablet, capsule, or syrup form and has been approved in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Central Africa Republic.
Economists contend that malaria hinders economic growth in Africa, with a growth penalty of up to 1.3 percent in some countries. The continent’s resources are being used in high percentages in the treatment of malaria, with some governments spending up to 40 percent of their public health budgets on such treatment.
The Innovation Prize for Africa program rewards breakthrough healthcare solutions in diverse industries and disciplines where innovation is needed in Africa.