Back-a-Buddy crowdfunding campaign: The Artemisia-Covid 19 Public Initiative.

It has been some time since my last blog post. Many things have happened in the past year most notably the global pandemic. Normally I write about complementary medicine and many of its shortcomings and more specifically how some academics exploit loopholes to do promotional research. This blog post is a bit different because I am embarking on testing an herbal medicine for the treatment of Covid 19. For this to happen, funds need to be raised in order to conduct a properly designed (eg not promotional) clinical trial on Artemisia annua and Artemisia afra. We have started a crowdfunding campaign on the ‘BackaBuddy’ platform (I just love the name) and need your support. I’ve copied the campaign description below, and please feel free to share. Here is the link to the campaign page.

The Artemisia-Covid 19 Public Initiative

Many people might be surprised to know that a possible treatment of Covid 19 is growing right under their feet, or strictly speaking, next to their feet because it is a shrub called Artemisia afra. The older generation know this herb as “Wilde Als” (Afrikaans), “Lengana” (Tswana/Sotho) or “Wild wormwood” (English) and many still use it today as an herbal tea to stave off or treat flu during winter months.

Recently the President of Madagascar launched an Artemisia tonic in the fight against the pandemic. Although this was heavily criticized, the President might actually be onto something. The herb in question, Artemisia annua, and the South African herb, Artemisia afra, have both been tested in clinical trials before. Both herbs showed similar good activity/safety profiles. Although these trials on 1800 patients were conducted before the pandemic (therefore not on Covid 19 infected patients) it does provide us with valuable/critical information. In laboratory tests, both herbs have showed good activity against HIV and many studies reported on the antiviral (incl. coronavirus) activity of compounds isolated from Artemisia.

The traditional use and scientific studies conducted to date compels an in-depth investigation into the potential of Artemisia to be developed as an effective/safe treatment of Covid 19.

So what needs to be done? There are four tenets to such a study:

  1. Chemical analysis: Development of quality control protocols, stability studies, formulation studies etc. Existing analytical facilities at North-West university (NWU) and techniques developed by myself over the past 10 years will be used.

    ATL photo
    Our analytical laboratory where the chemical analysis will take place
  2. Biological activity studies: We need to link specific (un)known molecules with activity against the Covid 19 virus. The chemistry will be conducted at NWU whereas the activity testing will be conducted in a number of EU laboratories.
  3. Clinical trials: Specific formulations needs to be tested for activity/safety in Covid 19 infected patients in a ‘randomized controlled trial’. This aspect is by far the most expensive and time consuming. Currently, we are collaborating with French researchers who conducted the two previous clinical trials on
  4. Production of Artemisia: An existing technology and ‘proof of concept’ facility at NWU called ‘Food & Energy’ will be used which makes dual use of land by growing herbs underneath raised solar panels. Combining various technologies this concept will generate electricity, create much needed employment and produce the raw herbal material.

    Sunfarming1-1024x683
    The Food & Energy facility at NWU where we currently grow Artemisia. Depending on funding this facility will be expanded. 

What kind of investment will a project like this require? Many millions (in ZAR), and many millions/20 (in US dollars). And why not approach the traditional funding agencies for support? Unfortunately, the wheels at funding agencies turn exceptionally slow and when funding becomes available (if ever) the world will probably be battling a different pandemic. So in reality, the only way to make this happen reasonably quickly is to ask for public support.

This project is an opportunity to become part of a potential solution and join the fight against Covid 19. If any additional information is required, please feel free to contact me at: frank.vanderkooy@nwu.ac.za

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