Who is Prof. Patrick Ogwang Engeu?: Flash Uganda Media looks at his biography, age, family, wife, COVIDEX, work and experience, political career, early life and education of a Ugandan Pharmacist.
Prof. Patrick Ogwang Engeu is a Ugandan Pharmacist.
He invented COVIDEX which is a natural herbal for supportive treatment in the management of viral infections (Covid-19) under his Jena Herbals Uganda Ltd, an Associate Professor of Pharmacy in the Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Medical Researcher, Entrepreneur and Executive Chairman of Jena Laboratories Uganda Limited.
He’s a specialist in Ethnobotany or Pharmacologist, Lecturer at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).
He is also the immediate Past President of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, a body that governs pharmacists and their practices in Uganda.
Prof. Ogwang’s research focus is on testing, developing and producing medicines from plants based on traditional medicine, knowledge and scientific laboratory evidence.
Early Life and Education
Prof Patrick Ogwang Engeu was born in the remote plains of Teso at a place known as Otuboi in Kabelamaido district, Eastern part of Uganda in 1973.
Ogwang is an orphan, who was raised by a single mother after the death of his father; his mother later died and was taken care of by his Uncle.
His father was an Itesot and his mother a Langi.
He is fluent in many languages, including Kumam and Ateso.
Ogwang attended a local primary school then St. Mary’s College Kisubi, in Wakiso District from where he obtained his O & A level certificates in the mid-1990s.
He was later admitted at Makerere University where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy, later, Master’s Degree in Pharmacology and then a PhD in Pharmacy and Pharmacology from Makerere University Kampala, Uganda.
Prof. Ogwang who’s currently the Head of Pharmacy Department in Mbarara University has been actively involved in research, including playing a key role as a member of the Pharmbiotoc team that won a grant from the World Bank for a Centre of Excellence at Mbarara University of Science and Technology under the US$140 million Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project (AACEII).
When he joined MUST, Ogwang set up a unit that has been transformed into the Department of Pharmacy, under the Faculty of Medicine where he was appointed Associate Professor.
Prof. Ogwang’s illustrious work has also attracted a grant of $6m World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence at MUST and support from the World Health Organization.
Additionally, Patrick Ogwang Engeu has been instrumental in the fight against malaria and other illnesses through research in herbal medicines that have led to the development of several awards including “outstanding Achievement” from the Ministry of Health.
He has published on a range of topics in Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Immunology, among others.
He has developed many effective medicines including Artavol and Artavoplus for malaria prevention and immune system strength, Jenacof for coughs and flue, Jenacid and Jenapep for peptic ulcers, Jena Dm for management of Diabetes, Jena HT as an adjunct therapy for High Blood Pressure, Jena Sm for the management of Sickle Cell Disease among others, all made from medicinal plants.
Prof. Patrick Ogwang Engeu also initiated the project of sanitisers by the Pharmaceuticals Society of Uganda (PSU), to fight Covid-19. He also started a production line in Mbarara University to supply western Uganda and PSU supply Kampala and other areas of the country.
This initiative managed to bring down prices of sanitisers that had escalated. His research and innovation work began way back in 2004.
Prof. Patrick Ogwang Engeu invented Covidex the wonder herbal medicine for Covid-19 under Jena Herbals Uganda Ltd, a company he owns. He developed the medicine from three medicinal plants mainly; Z. Gilleti and Warburgia Ugandensis.
He had deeply studied the medicinal plants for over 17 years, and then recently it was keenly followed by President Museveni before approval by the National Drug Authority (NDA) in June 2021.
Covidex is made from three main plants that include; Z. Gilleti and Warburgia Ugandensis. These plants are only found in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, two of them are grown while the third one is obtained in the forests where it’s abundant and according to Prof. Ogwang he grows some of them.
In Ateso, where Prof Ogwang comes from, Z. Gilleti is called Eusuk. In Runyakore, it’s called Omutatembwa, in Luganda, it’s called entale-ddungu, while Warburgia Ugandansis in Ateso is called Abaji, in Ankole, it is called Omwiha and in Luganda, it’s Mukuzannume.
Ogwang revealed that they’re currently researching what is called tissue and cell culture, which can be done in a small room to produce those compounds. In this process, one gets the plant cell and multiplies it in the laboratory such that they produce the active compounds in a small space.
Two of the plants, use their leaves while the third one, they get its bark, they don’t cut the tree.
Prof Ogwang studied pharmacy for his bachelor’s degree and when studying pharmacy, there is a subject called pharmacognosy, which’s the study of drugs from natural sources. Prof. was so passionate about it.
Also, growing up, his single mother always had all those herbs above the fireplace.
For other diseases like malaria, cough, diarrhoea, Ogwang’s mother would treat them at home. He has a passion for herbal medicines inspired by his late mother.
Prof Ogwang says at school they teach European medicines, European plants, and when you come out of pharmacy school, you cannot apply them.
But when he was doing his master’s, he joined the Natural Chemotherapeutical Research Institute in Wandegeya led by Dr Grace Nambatya.
“I went to her and told her, ‘I like research in natural medicines, can I get opportunity to work here? I just want to volunteer’. She said, ‘it’s okay. We shall soon be recruiting people; President Museveni has given orders for us to recruit scientists.”
When they advertised, Prof Ogwang applied. And he joined on merit. He began interactions with Ugandan herbalists. He interacted with so many Uganda plants, and he remembered this Eusuk and others they were using when they were young.
So, working in that place gave him the applicability of the class knowledge into Ugandan practical situations.
One of his half-brothers has a sickle cell child. The child used to do badly when he was young. So, he said, why can’t I look for something to help this boy? He began researching on Eusuk.
He read a paper by Nigerians about a similar plant they were using to treat sickle cells. He started studying this Eusuk and he published a paper on it.
Then he made a formula for this young man. It doesn’t cure, but this boy is now coming to 30 years, without any other intervention. Ogwang named that medicine Jena SM because his mother was called Jena; He names most of his medicines Jena.
The boy stopped getting painful crises. He is not cured, but he is alive and coping. From there, many people got to know of this medicine. Many children, actually very many in Uganda are living because of Prof Ogwang’s work.
According to Ogwang plants have several compounds in them; one plant can have over 200 compounds. What’s most important is how you extract them; organize them to handle a particular disease.
Knowing that this plant has antiviral properties, which in the villages are used against measles and certain coughs, and since Covid is a virus, Ogwang thought the two could be linked and right away he began his clinical research.
He tried it on his friend an American Professor he had invited to come to Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) to help us develop a certain new programme in clinical pharmacy.
One time, as he came to the burial of Ogwang’s uncle, he had contact with someone with Covid, he shared a vehicle on his way back and caught it. This was during the first wave.
He was badly off, he was admitted to the hospital. He was put on oxygen. It was personal guilt, real pain for Ogwang; He wanted him to recover because he had invited him to come to Uganda.
“I asked myself, if this American dies here, he has come on his own, he has no family here, and how am I going to handle it? It was a real pain on my heart. Every time I went to see him in hospital, I knelt and prayed for this man.”
But one day God revealed to Ogwang that ‘that formula there, which you are using for wounds in the mouth, dental pain, could help this man; because, Covid stays in your nose, and your throat; that’s where it multiplies it’s initially before it goes to the lungs. If you can handle it from the nose and throat, you have weakened it.
There and then Ogwang informed his friend “you use it in addition to your usual medicines; drop it in your mouth, three times a day’. “I gave it to him like on Monday and went to Kampala. Wednesday, he calls me and tells me, “I am much better, and I think I will be discharged on Friday”. I was surprised.
On Friday he called and said, “I have been discharged”.
His colleagues they shared a car with also had Covid, but he was not in the hospital. He called Ogwang: ‘Professor. I hear you have something and asked for a dose as well.
Prof Patrick Ogwang Engeu gave him two bottles, got healed as well. The professor had used only one bottle. Three to five bottles are enough for anyone to recover according to Ogwang. That was in December 2020.
In all these, President Museveni was not convinced not until Prof. Ogwang contracted Covid-19 and he asked him to heal himself first with his medicine.
However, he was cured and Museveni after speaking to the patients who got cured with Ogwang’s concoction to establish the fact, gave his Covidex a green light and eventually, the National Drug Authority (NDA) launched Covidex to be used in covid-19 treatment.
The president also linked him to the State House Controller, Lucy Nakyobe for financial support as he had earlier requested to expand production.
Everything used in manufacturing Covidex is locally obtained from A-Z, apart from the bottles where it’s packed, which are purchased from Kenya.
Covidex factory price began at shs3, 000 for the 20ml bottle, then shs5, 000 and now at shs6000. Prof. Ogwang has resisted suggestions to increase the prices.
But soon after Covidex was launched, the prices shot high ranging between shs20, 000 and shs100, 000.
According to Prof. Ogwang, the maximum price should be shs10, 000, to make it affordable to Covid patients. He says selling it at shs100, 000 is some sort of greed.
Jena Herbals began producing 10,000 units of Covidex per day, but now they produce 30 units per day.
Mbarara University says Covidex Intellectual Right is co-owned by the principal investigator (product developer) and the institution in which they work.
Dr Warren Naamara, the chairman of Mbarara University of Science and Technology Council, said they would not lose ownership of the product.
MUST said that they will block Jena Herbals Uganda Limited, the manufacturer of Covidex, a drug said to treat Covid-19, from taking ownership and benefit from the product.
This comes a few days after National Drug Authority (NDA) approved Covidex for public use and allowed Jena Herbals Uganda Limited to do mass production.
He, however, said the university is open to sharing the ownership of Covidex with Prof Patrick Ogwang Engeu, the owner of Jena Herbals Uganda Limited and creator of Covidex.
But a June 14 letter by Prof Celestino Obua, the Mbarara University Vice-Chancellor, states that Covidex is fully owned by the university and Jena Herbals Limited should desist from manufacturing the product unless the university permits.
Prof Obua said Covidex was developed by the university under Pharm-Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre.
In a June 14 write-up, Prof Ogwang stated that Covidex, is a formula developed by him and laboratory tests were carried out by only him and his team of scientists at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) for active compounds and safety in laboratory animals.
In the same regard, Prof Ogwang was sued alongside the government of the Republic of Uganda over the ownership of Covidex.
Lawyer George William Alenyo together with the Christian Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Tourism sued the government for failing to establish the true ownership of Covidex and failure to collect and remit proceeds from the herbal medicine’s sale to government coffers.
The suit was filed before the Civil Division of High Court in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
Prof Patrick Ogwang Engeu is a father of two and his wife is a doctor working at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Colleagues and friends describe Ogwang as a laidback person and Born-Again Christian.