Speech by the Prime Minister

Ceremony to Announce the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) award of Orphan Drug Status for ‘Chrysoeriol’ to treat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Keynote Address


The Most Hon. Andrew Holness

at the

Ceremony to Announce the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) award of Orphan Drug Status for ‘Chrysoeriol’ to treat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Eden Gardens Wellness Resort & Spa

July 12, 2017


Ladies and Gentlemen, this is truly a good afternoon for Jamaica.


I’m particularly excited to celebrate with Dr. Lowe and all who made this possible, in particular the University of Maryland Medical School and University of the West Indies on this remarkable achievement.


This epitomizes the type of innovation, hard work and tenacity that is necessary to improve Jamaica’s growth trajectory.


Economic growth theorists continue to emphasize the link between innovation and growth and development; that is innovation drives economic growth. But what is innovation? What stimulates innovation? At the core of innovation is research and development.


Research and development is responsible for knowledge acquisition and the development of new knowledge and techniques. The FDA’s Award of Orphan Drug status for this product which treats leukemia is a practical manifestation of this theory of research and development stimulating innovation.


This achievement through combining knowledge, technology and entrepreneurship leading to innovation by Dr. Lowe is a just reward for his hard work and dedication to science.


Dr. Lowe has contributed approximately fifty years in the field of science and technology, energy, the environment, wellness and health sciences nationally, regionally and internationally.


Dr. Lowe is not only recognized as one of the regions outstanding scientist but also as a public servant, author, educator and not just an entrepreneur but a successful entrepreneur and one who has put Jamaica at the forefront of science and technology.


Dr. Lowe has been instrumental in developing Jamaica’s indigenous nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries for many years. He has done so by successfully linking two challenging fields; scientific research and entrepreneurship. I don’t know which one is more challenging but I’m certain that Dr. Wheatley will say it’s the scientific field but I’m sure Dr. Lowe will say it’s the entrepreneurship side that is more challenging.


It is certainly important that we combine and continue to catalyze entrepreneurship and scientific research to stimulate job creation and economic growth. We acknowledge and celebrate the many ways in which your entrepreneurship Dr. Lowe is helping to stimulate economic growth in Jamaica and the government applauds you.


We look forward to having many more entrepreneurial scientists in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical fields. We also note Dr. Lowe that you have been a mentor to many scientists and for that as well, we applaud you.


The benefits of the healing powers of our plants have not been fully explored and the potential is vast as many more persons are shifting to utilize their medicinal value. I must emphasize however that this has to be done in a structured and scientific way with the appropriate policy and legislative framework in place to create the environment to stimulate research and development, innovation and entrepreneurship.


The government is balancing the need for the expediency to move quickly in having this legislative framework and in giving the incentives but also to ensure that the framework is robust and that it protects property rights, protects the development of the intellectual property that is involved and that we meet all the international regulatory standards. The government is ceased of its own role in supporting the development of the industry and research and development.


I take careful note Dr. Lowe of your suggestion of fiscal measures to add greater support to the work that you’re doing. I also took careful note of the opposition’s position and I paid close attention to how you put forward the suggestion. You said “just do it” and then my minister supported you to say we should just do it  but I believe that there are other ways and other types of fiscal measures that can be applied other than taxes that could help to stimulate, catalyze, advance the work that you’re doing in science complimented by the entrepreneurial drive.


One of the things that we’ve discussed is the creation of special zones to facilitate and promote scientific research and development. There is a Special Economic Zone Act and an Authority and I would encourage all our young scientists who have new products they are developing to form their companies and apply for recognition under the Special Economic Zone.


Already there is a different fiscal incentive framework applied to the special economic zones. And so as one of those measures that the government is promoting, though not specifically for the pharmaceutical or nutraceutical industry, it covers a wide range of activities one of which would be for companies that are doing research or making investments in businesses that are considered new that would be adding new value to our GDP, to consider developing those businesses under the framework of the Special Economic Zones. I recommend that to you and to all the other scientist and entrepreneurs who are in this room today.


The FDA Orphan Drug Award for the treatment of the special form of leukemia is setting the stage for Jamaica to be a player in the pharmaceutical R&D Production and marketing field. The global pharmaceutical industry could be worth nearly 1.6 trillion United States dollars by 2020 and of that the growing global nutraceutical market represents approximately 20%.


If Jamaica aims to capture as you said even 1%, I am being a little more ambitious; if we could even capture 2% of that. If you looked at the pharmaceutical side which might be a little more difficult but certainly the nutraceutical side having 52% of all plants that have proven medicinal value, Jamaica is in an excellent position to capitalize on that then we could add at least 2% growth per annum to our GDP easily if we were to fully develop the nutraceutical industry.


At this point let me say that a lot of our focus on nutraceutical has been on cannabis and we are a far way with developing the legislative framework and the regulatory framework. From where I sit I get many complaints about the pace at which the regulatory environment and the bureaucracy operate. I’ve had people coming to me directly to ask how can we get this thing moving much faster than it is and I’ve had to take a second look at the operations of the various agencies that we have to give their approvals in particular the (CLA) Cannabis Licensing Authority.


What is of importance is that the government of Jamaica has to ensure that it meets all the international standards, that we are compliant because as you’ve rightfully said  Dr. Lowe the plant cannabis and the drugs that could potentially come from it in many countries are still not recognized and some countries still consider it illegal, so the compliance issue forces the government of Jamaica to take great care in ensuring that we are not in breach of international rules, international standards and these are not just standards to do with medicine or compliance to do with health.


It is also financial standards and banking standards to ensure that our market is not being used for illegal activities parading under a license so I want the country to understand that the government takes a positive view of the development of  an industry which would use the marijuana plant as a main factor in the development of pharmaceutical products or nutraceutical products but given the global and internal context we just have to be absolutely careful and certain about what we’re doing and I believe that the CLA has taken this very cautious approach but it will inure to the benefit of the country in the long term.


Having said that, we must continue to integrate science and technology into our growth strategy as our economic future will depend on how well we utilize these innovations in all our undertakings whether it is addressing our housing needs, our water management needs, our environment, our health; our approach will require the use of science and technology to more efficiently and effectively address those needs.


The government of Jamaica is committed to fostering entrepreneurship as a productive force creating both social and economic value but more so we’re committed to pairing entrepreneurism with scientific research and today we celebrate the ultimate embodiment of that in the achievement of Dr. Lowe.


Thank you.