Nigerian professor becomes first African on the NAI fellowship

bitter leaf 1A Nigerian professor of Biology at Jackson State University, US, Ernest Izevbigie has won a place for himself as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, USA for his efforts in conducting a research that shows that Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalin) has some medicinal value that can prevent cancer.

The NAI fellow status is a professional distinction accorded to academic inventors. The founders wanted to recognise top scientists and innovators in the world. With his new status, Izevbigie has become the number 101 researcher selected and the first Nigerian and the only African on the NAI fellowship. He has also earned two patents, including one for the formula he created from bitter leaf – EdoBotanics – a dietary supplement that boosts the immune system and helps with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Asked what the benefits of the research breakthrough are to Nigerians, Izevbigie says, “I will say the benefits are huge. We have it commercially available and some people are using it for different health benefits. It is competitively priced and nobody is complaining about it. Then in the area of employment, we have people working at our cancer centre, some are growing the product. And whether for those involved in packaging or delivery of the product, employment is being generated. That is the economic benefit.

“Let me state that this is not a cure. A cure is when you apply something and the ailment disappears and does not come back. Whether it is cancer or diabetes, it removes it. But there is no guarantee that it’s not going to come back. If it comes back, then it’s not a cure. The product is food-based, and I think it should be referred to as a food supplement, for the management of a medical condition.”

“That is what we should be doing – not just talking. There is nothing wrong with the big fancy vocabulary but at the end, we need to be able to translate what we have learnt to students in the classroom, then into commodity and services demand in Nigeria. In that way, we will create employment. That is the essence of university education: to be able to do certain things to serve man purpose.”

“Some of our  universities, including University of Ibadan and University of Nigeria School of Medicine, have also confirmed our claims to be true.

“As far as regulations are concerned, as far as NAFDAC is concerned, because it’s from natural products, it’s classified as nutriceutical. Nutriceutical is different from pharmaceutical. It is a nutrient and medicine so to speak. It is something you can eat that also has medicinal benefits, a food supplement,” he says.

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