The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) has given five acres of land to Jena Herbals Uganda Limited, owned by Prof Patrick Engeu Ogwang to help develop his medical innovations.
The free land will be located at Soroti Industrial Park, mainly because this brings the production line nearer to the area where most of the required raw materials are found.
Jena Herbals, the producer of the now popular Covidex Herbal solution used in the treatment of Covid 19 and other respiratory diseases, has also received an investment license from the UIA, also free of any charge, as well as a 10-year tax holiday on his investments.
This is part of the support to promoting the production of Covidex as an essential pathology product as pledged by President Museveni last month.
Ogwang’s solution became popular in June after information spread that the Mbarara University of Science and Technology don had helped several people get healed of Covid 19.
The fast-rising popularity and President Museveni’s recommendation compelled the National Drug Authority- NDA to study its efficacy and and it was apprived as ‘supportive treatment’ for Covid-19.
Its high demand pushed its price from UgShs 3,000 shillings to UgShs 80,000 in less than two months, prompting public calls on the government to help bring down the cost, and also increase the capacity of its production.
Handing over the investment license to Prof Ogwang, State Minister for Investments Evelyn Anite says the incentives given are aimed at not only helping Jena Herbals to increase production of covidex but also other medicinal innovations by him.
The UIA Director General, Robert Mukiza says Uganda can hardly afford to treat or vaccinate everyone without hurting the economy, due to the high cost of the drug or vaccines. But he also says Uganda stands to benefit a lot if it takes advantage of the need for these solutions.
On his part, Professor Ogwang says building the capacity to produce enough is not hard because Uganda has all the natural resources required for the production of these medicines.
He says there is all evidence that Covidex will be on-demand as far as in the US and Europe, adding that Uganda can produce to that level because the raw materials and the brains are in the country.
The UIA Board Chairman Morrison Rwakakamba called on Africa to support African innovation, expressing disappointment at how the world views African medical innovations. “As Ugandans, we have to support the pathogenic economy.
If Prof. Ogwang’s Covidex was somewhere else, it could already have been approved by World Health Organization (WHO). It is us to support our local innovators and make them scale up. Covidex should be a global product,” he said.
Anite warned those who are challenging the legality of Prof Ogwang’s ownership and benefits from Covidex to stop it. His University, MUST, has laid claim on the innovation saying that it was developed under a university research and innovation program.
A group of lawyers have also challenged the ownership saying Professor Ogwang used government resources to develop Covidex and should therefore not claim to own it. Anite said that rather than spend time talking about ownership, Ugandans should instead be finding ways of supporting it or other innovations.
Prof Ogwang says he has so far developed 15 medicinal solutions and are being used, even before Covid 19 came, including those used in the treatment and prevention of Malaria, treatment of cancer, and sickle cell as well anti-poison solutions among others.
He says he wants to ensure that Uganda produces enough medicines to substitute medicinal importation by up to 60% of the 40 trillion shillings the country spends on importing medicines.
He also urged Ugandans to support local products irrespective of who has manufactured them. URN