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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.

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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What are Tea Producers in Kenya Doing to Cope up With the Price Rise? Find it Out Here

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Kenya Agriculture
Tea is a staple drink in Kenya, though, unlike other major producing countries, it consumes far less than it exports. Pixabay

In a humming factory in Kenya’s highlands, tea is hand-plucked from the fields, cured and shredded into the fine leaves that have sated drinkers from London to Lahore for generations.

But Kenya’s prized black tea isn’t fetching the prices it once did, forcing the top supplier of the world’s most popular drink to try something new.

In the bucolic hills around Nyeri, factory workers are experimenting with a range of boutique teas, deviating from decades of tradition in the quest for new customers and a buffer against unstable prices.

Like the bulk of Kenya’s producers, they’ve been manufacturing one way for decades – the crush, tear and curl (CTC) method, turning out ultra-fine leaves well suited for teabags the world over.

Now however, between conveyor belts whizzing tons of Kenya’s mainstay CTC into heaving sacks, huge rollers also gently and slowly massage green leaves under the watchful eye of workers, all freshly trained in the art of what is known as orthodox tea production.

The end result – a whole leaf, slow-processed variety, savored for its complex tones and appearance – is still being perfected at Gitugi, a factory in the foothills of the Aberdare Range that has been trialing these teas since June.

It has been costly shifting into orthodox, and a cultural change for workers and farmers, said Antony Naftali, operations manager at Gitugi, in Nyeri some 85 kilometers (52 miles) north of Nairobi.

But the risk was necessary: prices for stalwart CTC at auction nosedived 21 percent in 2018-2019 compared to the prior financial year, underscoring the urgency to diversify and extract more from every tea bush.

KENYA AGRICULTURE-TEA
A farm worker harvests tea leaves using shears at a plantation in Kenya’s Kericho highlands, Kericho county, in Kenya. VOA

“We have relied for so many years on traditional CTC. But the price has dropped. We want to reduce the pressure… but also, to explore this new market,” Naftali told AFP.

Market turmoil

Even since prices have recovered somewhat, any fluctuations are still keenly felt in Kenya, the world’s biggest exporter of CTC.

Tea is a staple drink in Kenya, though, unlike other major producing countries, it consumes far less than it exports.

The humble cuppa is a pillar of the economy: one in 10 Kenyans depends on the tea industry, according to the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which represents 650,000 smallholder farmers by selling and marketing their tea.

The poor returns this year sparked angry protests on estates, and tea companies registered losses.

Part of the problem is oversupply.

Higher prices in recent years spurred investment in tea planting, resulting in Kenya’s best-ever haul in 2018 – at 493 million kilos (1,086 pounds).

But Kenya also has long relied on too few buyers, shipping 70 percent of its tea to just four markets.

Its top three customers – Pakistan, Egypt and Britain – have all seen a weakening of their currencies in recent times, making tea imports pricey.

Other big buyers – Iran, Sudan and Yemen, chief among them – have struggled to make payments.

“Our key markets are in turmoil,” Lerionka Tiampati, KTDA chief executive, told AFP.

“When you cannot control the price, then there’s not very much you can do. But what we are doing is we are trying to diversify the product.”

Reading the leaves

Orthodox production opens doors to markets where whole leaf, bespoke teas and custom infusions are rewarded with higher prices, says Grace Mogambi, KTDA’s manager of specialty products, who has travelled the globe to learn what drinkers want.

Kenya Tea
The prized black tea in Kenya isn’t fetching the prices it once did, forcing the top supplier of the world’s most popular drink to try something new. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Studying samples in Gitugi’s cupping room, Mogambi reels off the qualities desired by discerning tea drinkers: Russians like whole leaves, Germans prize tips, Saudis demand jet black and Sri Lankans dislike stalks.

“Consumer taste preferences are changing. Drinkers are becoming more aware of the type of tea they prefer,” said Mogambi, clad in a white laboratory coat, before swirling a mouthful of tea and ejecting it into a spittoon.

“If I’m spending more money on a cup of tea, I prefer given characteristics to be present.”

But orthodox and specialty lines represent only a tiny fraction of Kenya’s exports, and critics say the KTDA – which accounts for 60 percent of the country’s tea production — has been slow to adapt.

The board decided in 2000 to launch an orthodox range but, by the end of 2019, just 11 of its 69 factories were expected to be producing teas other than CTC.

Some like Kangaita, a factory at the southern flank of Mount Kenya, have been cultivating purple teas – a rare specialty unique to the region.

Other craft varieties include white premium, a loose leaf packaged in deluxe pyramidal teabags.

These appeal also to younger tea drinkers, a growing market demanding something other than run-of-the-mill black tea.

“Youthful tea drinkers are definitely looking for wellness, and other health benefits in tea,” said Gideon Mugo, chairman of the East African Tea Trade Association.

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Major brands outside the KTDA have been targeting the youth segment.

Kericho Gold produces a line of “attitude teas” packaged in bright boxes, including one for “love” and another marketed as a hangover cure. (VOA)