After quitting his job in the US last December, Kenyan-born researcher Dr. George Njoroge has begun setting up a mega drugs production plant in Kenya.
The facility dubbed Centre of Africa’s Life Sciences (COALS) will stand on a 400-acre parcel of land in Naivasha, Nakuru County and has a starting capital of Sh20 billion.
Dr. Njoroge told Sunday Nation that the project is expected to create 10,000 employment opportunities. The facility will boast features such as hospitality, convention and leadership center, innovation village and botanical gardens, drug manufacturing plant, university of life science, college of pharmacy and a cancer research and management center.
“We have already started the work, which is building road networks so that the project can start immediately,” said Njoroge.
Njoroge said the project, which has received support from the Nakuru County government, will be a game-changer in medical research in Kenya. He divulged that several pharmaceutical companies have committed to support the initiative.
Dr. Njoroge worked as a senior research fellow at Lilly and Company in the US but he resigned in December 2019 to undertake this project. He is credited for the discovery of anti-HCV viral drug Victrelis' (Boceprevir or SCH 503034), a therapy for Hepatitis C treatment.
“We intend to establish an enterprise where top scientists across the world and their entrepreneurial counterparts will converge to foster a relationship that will culminate in innovating the best life science products that will benefit humankind,” Njoroge stated.
The facility will have a 1,000-seat convention center and a first-class 300-bed five-star hotel where visiting scientists and their guests will be accommodated.
The main aim of the plant is to manufacture drugs that are in great demand in Kenya and other parts of the continent at much lower prices.
“This is a model that has worked in other developing countries like India and China and we expect it will work as well in Kenya,” said Njoroge.
Dr. Njoroge, who has worked in the US for 30 years, has more than 100 US-granted patents for his work in cancer and immunology. He also has 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals.
“We are also asking the government to provide ease of getting work permits for foreign workers, provide a medium where licensing for various activities can be expedited and also provide a medium where intellectual property (IP) will be protected,” said Dr. Njoroge.
A topographic survey and planting of 100,000 hardwood trees including eucalyptus, grevillea, and bamboo have already been done on the land.
Njoroge, 66, was born in Kiambu and holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Nairobi and Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
In 2012, Njoroge was inducted into “Hall of Fame” as the Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society (ACS). He has won several awards among them the Emerald Award for Professional Achievement in Industry and the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for Emerging Therapies.