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Kenyan Scientist George Njoroge Gets Global Award

Dr. Njoroge says all the credit for his undying devotion to science and finding new cures should go to his late mother, Alice Nyaucha

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George-Njoroge
George Njoroge is a native of Kiambu with over 100 patents for his work in immunology and cancer.
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Kenyan scientist George Njoroge was feted with the Pioneer Award for Impact in Science and Medicine in New York. The researcher is also an author and co-author of over 120 scientific publications. His research primarily focuses on finding new drugs and development.

Kenya has produced yet another star, but this time it shines in the scientific field. George Njoroge is a United States-based Kenyan with the Pioneer Award for Impact in Science and Medicine under his belt. He received the award on Sunday, July 14 at the FACE List in New York, an event organized by Face2Face Africa. George is also a senior researcher at Eli Lilly and Merck Research Laboratories’ former Director of Research.

Njoroge received the honor after discovering molecules that could be used in treating a
variety of viral infections. ‘Over the years, I’ve received lots of accolades both here in the USA and other parts of the world. However, I find it quite remarkable to get recognition by an afro-centric organization. This makes me dance joyfully and with exhilaration,’ he said.

Who is George Njoroge?

George Njoroge is a native of Kiambu with over 100 patents for his work in immunology and cancer. He attended Kiawairia and Kamuchege Primary schools before advancing to Thika High School for his secondary education. He received his first-class honors undergraduate degree from the University of Nairobi before joining CASE Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio for a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry.

The 64-year-old says he’s not done despite holding a prestigious position at a global
pharmaceutical company. He wants to move to Naivasha in the next year to be in close proximity with his upcoming biotechnology institute. Njoroge hopes to attract well over 100 doctoral degree holders from all over the world to work in the institute to find a cure for cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and Malaria.

Dr-Njoroge
Dr. Njoroge, second from left, receives honorary doctorate from Mount Kenya University.

After accepting the Face2Face Africa Award, Njoroge said, ‘Africa has to step up the plate and get involved by participating in the global scientific platform, we cannot afford to be left behind. The African content has great brains and an abundance of resources. We only need to embrace the power that comes with biotechnology.’

Other Awards

However, this was not the first time the scientist was on a podium receiving an honorary
award, in 2017, he became the first African scientist to earn 100 patents from the American Patent and Trade Office. This honor also came after the scientist found a
treatment capable of curing some viral diseases. Mount Kenya University also saw
Njoroge’s ability through his research and awarded him an honorary Doctor of
Pharmacy degree back in 2014.

At Merck Research Laboratories, George conducted the research that paved the way for the discovery of Victrelis. Victrelis is the first ever oral drug for Hepatitis C. A US media outlet was quoted saying, ‘Victrelis was approved by the FDA in 2011 and is currently on sale in more than 45 countries worldwide, with over $1 billion in sales. The discovery earned the scientist a coveted 2012 Hero of Chemistry honor, which was awarded to him by the American Chemical Society, which is the largest scientific society in the world.’

With chronic hepatitis currently affecting over 3 million Americans and between 130 and 170 million others around the globe, Dr. Njoroge’s findings are immense. The drug has
already been approved in 43 countries and is currently on sale in 23 of said countries.

Credits

Dr. Njoroge says all the credit for his undying devotion to science and finding new cures should go to his late mother, Alice Nyaucha. She was a practitioner of herbal medicine and inspired his love for science since he was a little boy. The researcher is married to Ester Nyambura, and the couple has two children both pursuing medical degrees.

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Kenya’s First Breast Milk Bank to Combat Newborn Mortality

There are misconceptions and concerns about hygiene and the spread of disease to newborns in the use of donated milk. Murage noted that all donors' health would checked at the hospital and that the milk would be pasteurized.

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Kenya, newborn Mortality
A lab technician at the Mothers' Milk Bank of New England in Newtonville, Mass., pours donated breast milk into another flask to prepare for pasteurization. Kenya will soon be getting Africa's second bank for donated breast milk. VOA

Joshua Okumu’s wife, Mary Mwanja, died during childbirth 18 years ago at Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi. But their daughter survived.

When he picked up his newborn baby at the nursery, grief-stricken and shocked, Okumu was not entirely sure how to feed her.

Kenya, newborn Mortality
Plans are underway to bring a human milk bank to Nairobi as a joint effort between the Kenya Ministry of Health and PATH. The bank will be housed in Pumwani Maternity Hospital. VOA

“So when I reached home, I started feeding her with a packet of milk called Tuzo,” he said. “By that time, Tuzo was not diluted like nowadays. So, that is what I was using to feed the small baby when I took her from the hospital. If the mum was there it would have been healthier to be fed by her mum.”

For Kenyan widowers like Okumu, there will soon be another option: human donor milk.

Pumwani is getting Kenya’s first breast milk bank, which will be only the second of its kind on the continent. The other one is in South Africa.

The bank is a joint initiative by Kenya’s Ministry of Health and PATH, a U.S.-based nonprofit health organization. It will open in September for donations and offer free breast milk by prescription for babies who cannot get it from their mothers.

Newborn Mortality in kenya
Dr. Elizabeth Kimani Murage, head of maternal and child well-being at the African Population and Health Research Center. VOA

‘Next best option’

Dr. Elizabeth Kimani Murage, head of maternal and child well-being at the African Population and Health Research Center, is behind the project.

“The World Health Organization recommends that if the mother’s own breast milk is not available for the baby for any reason, the best next option would be the donor milk,” she said. “So the recommendation is to make donor milk available to such vulnerable babies.”

The milk bank aims to help orphaned and malnourished babies get the nutrients essential to healthy development.

Murage said mother’s milk has an enormous impact on child survival, especially during the first month of life.

Kenya, newborn Mortality
The Pumwani Maternity Hospital’s policy on breastfeeding is displayed on this bronze plate. VOA

“Despite improvements in infant mortality, neonatal mortality is reducing at a very slow rate, so those are the children we want to target,” she said. “According to the Every Newborn Action Plan [from the World Health Organization and UNICEF], we should actually reduce neonatal mortality to 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. But, you see, we are very far [from that goal]. We are at 22.”

There are misconceptions and concerns about hygiene and the spread of disease to newborns in the use of donated milk. Murage noted that all donors’ health would checked at the hospital and that the milk would be pasteurized to ensure that only safe and healthful breast milk is given to babies in need. (VOA)