Makerere student invents drug that treats cancer, diabetes, burns

Ms Winny Akello uses liquid smoke to treat burns on her hands which she sustained a few weeks ago

Thursday December 31 2015

Mr Solomon Ongora presents a paper on his

Mr Solomon Ongora presents a paper on his invention in Lira Town recently. PHOTO BY BILL OKETCH 


KAMPALA. Ms Winny Akello uses liquid smoke to treat burns on her hands which she sustained a few weeks ago.
“I was lucky to use the liquid smoke; it has helped me a lot,” says Akello, a resident of Aduku Town Council, Apac District. “I feel that I’m recovering fast from the wounds.”
The 26-year-old farmer is one of the more than 5,000 people countrywide who have used liquid smoke from eucalyptus, a new line of medication that has proved effective in treatment of a wide range of diseases.

In an interview with Daily Monitor, Mr Solomon Ongora, a Makerere University student who invented the medicinal liquid smoke, says it is a bi-product of the charcoal-making process.
Mr Ongora says the invention is a result of a study he conducted under the supervision of Prof Majiliwa Mwanjalolo of Makerere University’s Institute of Environment and Natural Sciences.

The study was aimed at improving the charcoal-making process in the era of climate change.
Mr Ongora, who is waiting to graduate with a Master degree in Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management next month, says he developed and designed the multipurpose background kiln for charcoal production.
“As you make charcoal, this technology enables you to capture the underground heat and smoke emissions which normally escape during the process,” says Mr Ongora, adding that the smoke contains volatile compounds which are important in the making of medicine, cosmetics, food preservatives and fertilisers.

Through the charcoal-burning process, he captures and makes liquid smoke which contains carbonic acid, phenolic acid, benzoic acid, 2-6 methoxyphnol and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and sodium.
Mr Ongora says through the condensation process, smoke and vapour are captured and converted into a liquid form to make liquid smoke.
“I use a cooler surface to facilitate the formation of liquid from vapour and also use fractional distillation to separate the organic compounds using a pyrometer to measure temperature.”

He adds that the compounds boil at different temperature which helps in the separation of poisonous components from useful organic compounds needed for medicinal purposes.
So far, Mr Ongora’s liquid smoke and Kiln technology have been granted certificates of compliance by the Government Analytical Laboratory and the Uganda Industrial Research Institute.

Mr Wakabi Musa, who works at the Government Analytical Laboratory, says organic compounds found in the samples of the liquid smoke such as mequinol are used in the treatment of liver ailments and skin de-pigmentation.
Explaining how the liquid smoke works in treating medical complications, Mr Ongora says benzoic and acid acetic used to treat cancer were found present using the chromatography test at the government laboratory. He adds that 2-6-methoxyphnol is used to remove reactive species from the human blood.

“The component of 2-6-Mehoxyphnol helps to neutralise the reactive species which damage the DNA to cause cancer,” he says, adding that Ugandans suffer from sickness due to reactive species and absence of nutrients contained in the organic compounds. He observes that once a health problem is emerging out of an infection, psychological stress, pollution and inflammation, the immunity system detects reactive species which are responsible for damaging body cells.

He says the liquid smoke can be taken orally by patients through an average dosage of 40 militres but its consumption depends on what symptoms of relief one gets.
Mr Ongora says it can also be applied on wounds, burns, skin rashes, fungal infections and on jiggers.
He adds that in Thailand, liquid smoke is being used to preserve food, manufacture cosmetics and agricultural fertilisers.
Liquid smoke costs Shs80,000 per litre through Ongora’s registered company called Envirpharm Scientific (U) Limited.

Prof Mwanjalolo, who supervised Mr Ongora, says the study was useful in addressing key environmental issues and challenges facing the country today. “The use of eucalyptus plantation tree for charcoal-making and for medicinal, cosmetics and food preservation values means our local indigenous tree can be protected from extinction using this technology,” he says.
The National Drug Authority spokesperson, Mr Fredrick Sekyana, says they are ready to work with people behind such innovations to help them meet regulatory requirements.