Can A Pasta King Bring Generic Drugs To Sub-Saharan Africa?
Mar16

Can A Pasta King Bring Generic Drugs To Sub-Saharan Africa?

Last week, Lisa wrote a story about India-based Cadila Pharmaceuticals becoming a partial investor in a proposed drug manufacturing site in Rwanda. This guest post from C&EN reporter Linda Wang explains another partnership in that vein. Cameroonian billionaire entrepreneur Celestin Tawamba is hoping that the enormous success he’s had in building a pasta empire in central and sub-Saharan Africa can be replicated in his latest endeavor—to establish a state-of-the-art generic drug production facility in his native Cameroon. In April 2010, Tawamba, who is widely known as “the pasta king,” launched Pharmaceutical Industrial Company (Cinpharm S.A.), in Douala, Cameroon. With financial backing from foreign investors such as Cipla, India’s largest pharmaceutical company, cinPharm has started blister packing and distributing generic drugs, including paracetamol, ibuprofen, metronidazole, amoxicillin, and cotrimoxazole. Cinpharm will also produce generic anti-malaria, anti-TB, and anti-retroviral drugs as well as drugs against gastrointestinal and other diseases prevalent in central and sub-Saharan Africa. The drugs are currently supplied in bulk by Cipla, but cinPharm hopes to one day manufacture its own pharmaceuticals. The ability to blister pack drugs in sub-Saharan African is significant because it helps to lower the cost of imported drugs, which can be extremely expensive and unaffordable for most Africans. "Local drug production may soon fill the empty shelves in local pharmacies and finally take care of alleviating chronic drug shortage," says Rolande Hodel, president of AIDSfreeAFRICA, who alerted C&EN to Cinpharm’s activities. Tawamba’s rapid rise to success with his pasta business is impressive. According to a July 15, 2009, article in the Cameroonian business journal, the Entrepreneuer, Tawamba took out a loan in 2002 and set up La Pasta S.A. in Douala, producing 25 tons of flour and spaghetti. Seven years later, the company was producing 250 tons of pasta and had employed 500 workers. With more than 300 employees and plans to hire additional scientists, Cinpharm is fast becoming one of the largest employers in Cameroon. Hodel says AIDSfreeAFRICA is supporting Cinpharm by helping to raise awareness about the company and recruit chemists with an interest in working in Cameroon. For more information about Cinpharm and other drug production efforts in Cameroon, visit AIDSfreeAFRICA’s...

Read More
World AIDS Day Roundup
Dec01

World AIDS Day Roundup

Today is World AIDS Day. Here are some selected tidbits of basic science and business developments in the HIV/AIDS arena that we've covered in 2010. (Some C&EN links are subscriber-only). In May, Belgian scientists reported early results on the path to a new type of antiviral- one that blocks an interaction between HIV integrase, which helps the virus integrate its DNA into that of a human host cell, and a human protein that is critical for this process as well. In contrast, the FDA-approved drug raltegravir interferes with the integrase protein itself. The Belgian scientists' report, which you can read here, does not include tests on humans or animals, but it suggests that the approach of blocking this interaction, rather than going straight for the integrase itself, might be a viable option for AIDS drug development. In June, two independent teams determined what an antibody with unusually potent and broad activity against HIV strains looks like. The teams hoped this information could give a boost to the search for an AIDS vaccine. These results, which you can read here and here, are preliminary and nothing has been tested in animals or people yet. But because an AIDS vaccine would have to generate a stronger immune response to the virus than the body is capable of on its own, any clues as to how to make that immune response stronger (say, with a really powerful antibody) are welcome to scientists. In July, researchers at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna reported that a microbiocidal gel containing 1% tenofovir (brand name Viread), an antiretroviral drug, helped lower the risk of contracting HIV and genital herpes. Unlike the more preliminary work I mentioned earlier, this study was done in human patients. Also in July, Gilead Sciences announced it would close its research site in Durham, NC by the end of this year. Gilead first acquired the site when it bought Triangle Pharmaceuticals in 2003. Triangle scientists' drug discovery efforts had led to Gilead's AIDS drug Emtriva, which won regulatory approval months after Gilead acquired the business. NC-based news outlet the News-Observer had extra details on company history when the news broke: Triangle was one of the Triangle's most promising young drug companies. It was formed in 1995 by a group of former Burroughs Wellcome executives led by the late David Barry, who was a co-inventor of the first major AIDS drug, AZT. Tragedy struck the company in 2002 when Barry died of a heart attack at age 58. And finally, at August's American Chemical Society National Meeting in Boston, David S. Teager, a chemist with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, explained how...

Read More