A report by the legal, rules and privileges committee Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) has contradicted their earlier position on covidex ownership-this time concluding Prof. Patrick Ogwanga Egweu is indeed the real owner of the herbal drug.
Covidex is a locally-made herbal medicine which the National Drug Authority (NDA) approved recently as a supportive treatment for Covid-19 and has since June, at the height of the second covid19 wave been a centre of legal battles and exchanges between Pro Ogwang and MUST. At that time, Covidex was being produced, marketed and sold by Jena.
On the 14th of June 2021, the Vice Chancellor of MUST in a press statement said Covidex was a product under development at MUST by the Pharm Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre (PHARMBIOTRAC) through a research grant from MoSTI. The asked the general public to be patient and allow the product undergo all necessary procedures. He notified the public that the Intellectual Property Rights of Covidex belonged to MUST and that Jena Herbals (U) Ltd stops the production, distribution of Covidex without express permission from MUST.
On 6th of July 2021, the Chairperson of MUST council asked the MUST VC to compile and submit a report on the controversies surrounding covidex to the Legal, Rules and Privileges Committee (LRPC) of Council which started to investigate the issues surrounding Covidex on September 3, 2021 and prepare a position paper for Council.
A five member committee was instituted and chaired by Dr. Stevens Kisaka with members Jolly Uzamukunda, Sarah Nyachwo, Prof Nixon Kamukama and Dr Robert Bitariho and this week, produced a report.
In their ten point conclusions contained in a sixteen page report outed on September 22, 2021 the committee says that Covidex is a product that was originated by Jena Herbals (U) Ltd and was in existence prior to the implementation of the Research Grant that government extended to MUST through the Technology ministry.
In April 2020, PHARMBIOTRAC responded to a Call for Research Proposals from the Ministry of Science and Technology and Innovation (MoSTI). They proposed to research on PharmSan Innovations – a Liquid and Gel formulation Hand Sanitizer and a Preclinical Evaluation of three Herbal Drugs for Effects against Corona Virus Infection.
The Preclinical Evaluation of Herbal Drug was successful and funded by MoSTI with Shs. 283,312,000 (two hundred eighty three million three hundred and twelve thousand”. Dr. Patrick Ogwang Engeu, the Deputy Center Leader was the Principal Investigator.
Others on the research team included Dr. Casim Umba Tolo, Dr. Eunice Apio Olet, Mr. Joseph Oloro, Mr. Silvano Samba Twinomujuni, Mr. Jimmy Ronald Angupale and Dr. Wafula Winfred of Soroti University.
Now regardless of the fact that government money was used to fast track the research in covidex, all rights belong to Prof Ogwang.
“The Covidex on the market belongs to Jena Herbals (and) MUST does not possess the pharmaceutical formula for Covidex (which) Jena had at the time this Committee interacted with him,” the report reads.
Further in the conclusions, the Dr. Kisaka led committee says research on the three products in the Grant had yielded no intellectual property by the time this report was written.
“PHARMBIOTRAC /Research team and MUST engaged with Jena Herbals (U) Ltd products without an MoU, an action that proved to be against the interests, good name and image of the University,” the report states.
But in one of the conclusions, the report faults Prof Ogwang for conflict of interest as he was director of Jena yet at the same time a Principal researcher at MUST.
The report also criticises MUST for lack of a commercialisation framework and that different researchers at the university have exploited this gap to gain privately.
The report therefore recommended that the contentious issue of the origin, ownership, intellectual property rights and relationship with Jena, MUST distance itself from Covidex because it is not the owner.
“Researching on products of Jena without an MoU was against the interests, good name and image of the University hence the actors should be handled by the Appointments Board,” the report recommends.
The Audit and Risk Committee of MUST should deeply inquire into all innovations and products at MUST previous and ongoing to ascertain progress on each product, the risks involved and advise Council accordingly.
“Management should provide a list of all Partnerships that the Centers have entered into since 2015, including copies of their MoUs, to Council within one month.
Ogwang faces three litigations including by the one of former Lubaga North MP Moses Kasibante through his Actiin for Peace organisation, Lawyer George Ogwang who accuses Ogwang of abuse of aoffice and others.
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