Chemists: Tell us your story
Mar17

Chemists: Tell us your story

Dawit Tibebu has a way with trash. Visit his bench at Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University and you’ll find him crafting distilling flasks from discarded heat-tempered light bulbs and condensers made from hoses snaked through discarded and conjoined water bottles. With lab set ups built from discarded materials such as these, the chemistry student and his mentor Sileshi Yitbarek hope to help bring simple, hands-on chemistry experiments to regional and rural schools in Africa that can’t afford traditional lab equipment. I heard Dawit’s story from Peter Mahaffy, a chemistry professor at King’s University College in Edmonton and chair of the IUPAC committee that helped make 2011 the International Year of Chemistry. The International Year of Chemistry’s “success will be measured by how we engage the public,” Mahaffy told me over lunch last week. He had just landed in Boston to speak about the year-long celebration at the invitation of the American Chemical Society’s Northeastern section. To capture the public’s attention, he argued, chemists need to tell more stories like Dawit’s. “Human stories--not stories of chemicals or substances--are what drive interest in the subject of chemistry,” he explained. “Those are the stories we need to be telling.” I couldn’t agree more. Those are exactly the kind of the stories we’re trying to tell at C&EN. If you've got an inspiring human story of chemistry like Dawit's, please share it...

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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...

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