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A pioneering treatment for high blood sugar and high blood pressure, created by a team from the University of the West Indies (UWI), has won the Minister’s Innovation Awards for 2012.

The entry, titled: ‘A Novel Treatment Against Hyperglycemia and Hypertension,’ was adjudged as likely to be the most significant in its effect on the scientific and technological world. It topped a field of 177 entrants in the awards competition developed by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.

The delighted team comprising Dr. Lisa Lindo of the Biochemistry Department, Dr. Trevor Yee of the Natural Products Institute, and Professor Paul Reese of the Chemistry Department, were on hand to collect the Champions ‘Innovator of the Year’ trophy and a cheque for $2 million, at the awards gala and banquet held last night (November 8) at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston.

The product also came out on top in the Health and Wellness category, earning the team a further $750,000.

“This is a great feeling,” Dr. Lindo said of the win. She explained that the team used the eucalyptus plant in their experiment and found that extracts from the plant were doing better than some popular drugs now in use to lower hypertension and blood sugar. She said they were in the process of patenting the drug and looking forward to have it produced as a supplement to be taken orally.

“It is really great because now I am thinking that we can look into more research, more into folklore medicine. We know that everybody looks into drinking these plants but we don’t really know what is in these plants that is causing the effects, so now we have now proved, in this case, what is really in it and what it is good for,” she said.

The UWI team shared the spotlight with a group of students from Sunderland Primary School in St. James, who won the Youth Award for their Sunderland Quick Patch, which is designed to fill potholes. They received $1 million and a trophy.Sunderland

Other winners on the night were Alison Latchman in the ‘Creativity’ category for Cabbie Chronicles; Leary Myers and Leonardo Clarke of the UWI in the ‘Resource Utilisation Efficiency’ category for Real Time Monitoring and Alert System; Kingsley Palmer in the ‘Resource/Knowledge Valorisation’ category for Agriculture-Water Harvesting and Conservation Techniques; and Ewan Pitter in the Open category, for ‘Renewable Energy Driven Fully Controlled Microcontroller Based On Automated Hydroponic Greenhouse system’.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, said he was pleased that after a brief hiatus, the Ministry has once again begun to salute the achievers and innovators in a spectacular way. He pledged that the competition will be held annually.

He explained that the format of this year’s competition is “winners take all” but noted that an arrangement has been reached with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) to assist all the entrants to properly register their patents. This, in an effort to “add value to your thoughts, to your ideas, to your innovations,” Mr. Paulwell said.

Stating that the country’s development will soon be judged on the number of patents registered per annum, he said that “we are going to get our youngsters in schools to …focus now on the sciences (and) to stop thinking that these are hard subjects. We need more Mathematicians, we need more Chemists, we need more Physicists… it is in these areas that we have opportunities that we are going to exploit.”

Chief Judge and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, UWI, Professor Ishenkumba Kahwa, noted that the winners were unanimously agreed on by the judges. He noted that the judges did research to verify the originality of the patents and commended the high quality of the entries particularly the information communication technology (ICT) submissions.

Distinguished Jamaican-born chemist, Professor Bert Fraser Reid, who has done ground breaking research into the chemistry of sugar, delivered the main address at the  black tie awards ceremony, which was a special Jamaica 50th Anniversary event.

Professor Reid encouraged the entrants not to give up if they were not successful the first time but to continue trying.

The Minister’s Innovation Award was being staged for the fourth time since its introduction in 2005. It is aimed at nurturing a culture of creativity and stimulating or catalyzing innovation through the application of science and technology to drive economic growth and wealth creation.

Through the awards, outstanding, innovative individuals and institutions are identified, recognised and rewarded. They are also given assistance to protect and commercialise their innovations.  The event itself provides an opportunity to celebrate and promote innovative attributes and cultural values.