Naivasha to host Sh20 billion premier medical research hub

A journey to put together top brains in the medical and academic fields to mitigate future outbreak of diseases has started in Kenya with the setting up of a multi-billion shilling research centre.

The grand plan dubbed ‘Centre of Africa’s Life Sciences’ (Coals) is aimed at creating a world-class centre of research in the continent by nurturing growth of biotechnology industry.

The project being rolled out in Naivasha on a 400-acre piece of land will be a venue for top brains to learn, communicate, innovate and invent great discoveries in life science and other related areas.

Immediate attention

George Njoroge -- a renowned Kenyan researcher who in 2011 discovered Victrelis, the first oral protease inhibitor that cured Hepatitis C -- is behind the plan.

Under the plan, a team of experts will be directors of the project. So far, the project lists Olive Mugenda (former Kenyatta University vice chancellor) and Richard Mibey (former Moi University VC) as advisors.

Others are Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony, former Kiambu County Deputy Governor Gerald Githinji, Francis Karanu, a biotechnology expert, and Jude Onyia, vice president Elli Lilly and Campany.

It has also drawn architectural experts Chris Osore and Henry Njunge, Esther Njoroge, a financial consultant, and Dr Qun Dang, an external collaborator from China.

In an interview with Saturday Standard, Dr Njoroge said the project will identify disease areas that require immediate attention due to unmet need by discovering new medicines.

“We plan to initiate effort in those areas that we feel are capable of attracting critical amount of resources that would allow us to significantly advance in drug discovery,” said Dr Njoroge.

Njoroge worked at Lilly and Company, a top drug manufacturing company in the US, as a research fellow. He has more than 100 US granted patents and 130 publications in peer reviewed journals.

Speaking yesterday, Njoroge said this project could be the solution to Africa’s problems.

“With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we see established countries conducting trials and being on the forefront in finding vaccines. Yet we have the top brains here that can fully participate in the process if empowered,” he said.

The project with a start up capital of about Sh20 billion has already attracted many pharmaceutical companies, universities and researchers eager to partner.

This means Kenya will be on the forefront in finding homegrown solutions to terminal diseases and pandemics that threaten human life.

“We will establish Drug Innovation Research Centers, whose sole objective will be to incubate small African biotechnologies that will eventually discover and develop novel medicines that will cater for unmet medical needs both in Kenya,” Njoroge said.

Overall, Coals intends to establish an enterprise where top scientists of the world and their entrepreneurial counterparts will converge to foster a relationship that will culminate in innovating the best life science products to benefit human kind.

Discovery machinery

“Our initial prospect will be the discovery efforts in both infectious diseases and cancer. And we will do this by collaborating with scientific institutions all over the world to fill up the gaps and possibly accelerate our discovery machinery,” Njoroge said.

Other diseases such as diabetes and cardiac events will follow.

So far, the land upon which the project will rest has been purchased and more than 100,000 hard wood trees have been planted.

“Ground breaking is in due course and we are also in talks with county and the central governments over the project,” Njoroge said.

Once complete, the project will host top-notch university, 300 bed hospital and a hotel to host visiting scientists.