Fern Lewis2

Phyto-Innovation Challenge Launched to Unearth Hidden Secrets of Local Plants

Phyto-Innovation Challenge Launched to Unearth Hidden Secrets of Local Plants

Fern Lewis2

A call is being issued for discoveries of compounds and innovations from Barbados’ plants. Export Barbados (BIDC)’s newest challenge in the “From Discovery to Global Sales” series, is encouraging local scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens to submit entries that explore the beneficial, therapeutic and medicinal properties of local plants.

The Phyto-Innovation Challenge — Unearthing the Hidden Secrets of Barbados’ Plants — is focused on developing unique health and wellness products that promote healthy aging or well-aging and/or address non-communicable diseases or elderly care and concerns. The Challenge encourages interested persons to identify existing and new compounds and groups of compounds, which can be used in products or used to develop new products.

The Challenge comes on the heels of World Diabetes Day which was observed globally on November 14. The theme of World Diabetes Day 2022 was ‘Access to Diabetes Care’ and was aimed at bringing attention to the importance of prevention of and treatment for the disease. Diabetes is a leading cause of death, blindness, heart attacks, kidney failure, stroke and lower limb amputations worldwide. Barbados is also affected by the scourge of diabetes. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the prevalence of diabetes in adults in Barbados is 18.7%.

With such high numbers, there is a need for solutions to help treat and prevent diabetes and other non-communicable diseases prevalent in Barbados. Our Phyto-Innovation Challenge provides a platform for Barbadians to use local plants to develop home-grown solutions to combat a variety of problems including diabetes, other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and ailments. Plants that have been highlighted for special interest include pink grapefruit, aloe, Barbados cherry, soursop, sea moss, bay leaf, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass and moringa.

Export Barbados’ Director of Innovation, Research and Development, Fern Lewis, indicated that there is tremendous untapped potential in the botanical sector, which the Corporation hopes to see flourish through this new Challenge.

“Our Phyto-Innovation Challenge is one of the initiatives that Export Barbados is introducing to help build out Barbados’ life sciences industry and make this jurisdiction a life sciences hub in the Caribbean. A wealth of potential lies in our local plants, which, if explored and developed, could be used to tackle the high incidence of NCDs, not just here in Barbados, but globally,” Lewis said.

The first phase of the Phyto-Innovation Challenge is a call for new discoveries from plants, such as extracts (e.g., essential oils), simple solutions (e.g., powders) or existing products. Extracts and simple solutions could be end-user products in themselves or could be used as an ingredient in new products. Interested persons are asked to submit their entries outlining their discovery. This submission should include the need it addresses or the problem it solves, the key plant or plants used, the active compound or ingredient (if known), and the global market demand for the discovery or if it is commercially viable. Further details will be available on https://innovatebarbados.exportbarbados.org/

Successful applicants will participate in a six-month improvement and enhancement phase that seeks to develop and refine the discoveries toward commercialization, developing capacity and increasing Barbados’ basket of export goods. Export Barbados (BIDC) looks forward to receiving submissions over the coming weeks.

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