WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Charlestown's Diane Winn was honored by His Excellency Dr. Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, Ambassador of Ghana, for her work with Dr. Oku Ampofo in plant medicinal treatment of malaria in the African nation. Her prestigious recognition came during a March 3 ceremony at the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, D.C.
Winn is currently involved in efforts to bring a product made from the root of a plant which has been traditionally used to cure malaria to the African, American and world markets.
"I need to get this product on the market because people are suffering." said Winn, whose work in Ghana dates back to 1962 when she first travelled to the nation as a member of a 20-person medical research team sent by the National Institutes of Health, her employer at the time.
Malaria is one of the world's biggest medical challenges. Each year more than 400 million people worldwide contract the disease, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, leaving 1 million dead and millions more incapacitated.
An estimated forty percent of workers in Ghana are sick with malaria on any given day, she said, and Ghana is estimated to require more than 30 million doses of an effective anti-malarial medication annually.
Winn currently directs the work of Phytica, an American company with a Ghanaian subsidiary which she founded to raise funds to conduct research and bring these products to market. The Government of Ghana had previously given $1 million to the company to develop, produce and conduct clinical trials on a teabag formulation of the anti-malarial product.
Phytica successfully put an anti-malarial medicine on the market as a tea bag formulation, and its clinical trials showed that the plant medication lowered fevers within the first 24 hours, and eliminated the parasites from the bloodstream within the first 3 to 5 days, with no adverse side effects.
Winn estimates the company will need to raise another $1 to $2 million to develop a drug formulation, as well as a special formulation for infants and young children.
Phytica also has a farm, which will eventually provide the raw materials to supply to the production process at a nearby pharmaceutical manufacturing firm, with whom Phytica has a partnership. Outgrower farms will also be needed, and the Government of Ghana is pleased that the agricultural side of the economy will be stimulated.
In 1995, before Dr. Ampofo died, he gave her his body of knowledge, which she has incorporated into a database containing information on over 270 plants that have been used to treat more than 100 diseases and conditions.
"This work will outlive me," said Winn, who holds a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Cedar Crest College, and a Certificate in Medical Illustration from Johns Hopkins Medical School (she is also an artist). "Even after the antimalarial drug is fully on the market, there are plants to be developed to treat arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, malnutrition, prostate hypertrophy and many others."