Diaspora Valid Dreams: This Diaspora Kenyan is true son of Africa
In the year 1979, a young man sat on the hard chair at the University of Nairobi graduation square enduring the hot scotching sun while eagerly waiting to hear his name called among the few in that Organic Chemistry class to be conferred the Bachelor’s degrees.
Many close friends knew him just by his Thika High School nickname “ Appolo” but his real names were and still are George Njoroge.
Names or nicknames that by then could not have made any head to turn, but in later years, a man that will leave a mark in the annals of internal medicine for he happens to be among the few that have immensely contributed to discoveries that have saved and will continue saving many lives.
Unlike many present at that colorful graduation ceremony, George had keenly listened to the words altered by the Professor to all in attendance and the simple but powerful words, “By my authority and that of the university I give you the power to read and to do all that appertains to that degree”, may have sunk deep into his conscious mind to later seek and unveil a special fountain that contains knowledge.
The philosophical words given to all those graduating so as to help them to sail into the sea of life, were altered by a man with ample knowledge and unspeakable electrifying charisma that made many to envy him, …like to copy him, ….and believe that they had completed a special momentous academic journey.
That was also the moment many suddenly felt some kind of emptiness and the strong comradeship bond all had imagined to last forever, would suddenly break.
That was the moment the feeling of “student power” greatness, and the famous “power to the student slogan” would eventually start fading away and thereafter leaving an ineffable unspeakable fear like disturbing void feelings hard to put in words unless one has gone through it.
Many all the same believed that they had discovered their innermost ego while others thought that they had obtained the ticket to something else but all that was an ill conceived believe, for as far as George and maybe a few others were concerned, it was the beginning of a long journey.
The ceremony had left him with such an ineffable feeling that made him to continue craving for more and more knowledge.
More knowledge that made him to abandon his earlier indoctrinated ambition in politics to contest for a Parliamentary seat in Githunguri but instead, to join the scholarly intellectuals with perceptive minds that seek knowledge to discover and give solutions to genetic links and new traits to certain disorders that affects humans.
A gratifying gesture not only to him as a professional, but a fulfilling undertaking and obligation to society at large by coming up with effective cures for strange viral and microorganism enemies that attack the human body.
Yes just like his nickname “Apollo” in those years had a mission to reach the moon, he had a mission just here on earth to discover and conquer the then unknown wide spectra of medicinal Chemistry.
He did it with such a passion that made him to finally come up with anti-HCV Viral drug Victrelis which is further described by the man himself.
In our new parallel series to Diaspora Shattered Dreams, we felt that this man should lead in our Diaspora Valid Dream Series due to his huge portfolio.
This is the story of that man who immigrated just like many do to pursue their individual dreams.
A dream that has later transformed his life and that of the many he continue to touch and the journey is still on to yet discover other forms of drugs that can give hope to other ailments whose cure are yet to be discovered.
It is not the end of the story for he has also embarked on other philanthropist gestures that shape the destiny of humankind.
By looking at his biography we may not be able to add any other words to describe this great man and you are at liberty to continue describing this true son of Africa.
- George Njoroge, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, Lilly
Dr. Njoroge is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Lilly. Previously, he was a Director in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at Merck Research Laboratories in Kenilworth, New Jersey where he oversaw chemistry program in infectious diseases platform. Through research leadership at Merck, an anti-HCV viral drug Victrelis™ (also known as Boceprevir or SCH 503034) was discovered – this medicine was approved by FDA on May 13th 2011 as the first-in-class therapy for HepC treatment and is currently in the market. Dr. Njoroge led his chemistry in the discovery of the second generation HCV protease inhibitor Narlaprevir® that has completed Phase IIb clinical trials and is currently marketed in Russia as Arlansa. He has also worked extensively in the oncology area, especially in the discovery of therapeutic agents that are geared towards intervention of signal trunsduction process in proliferating cells: this work led to discovery of Sarasar®, a farnesyl transferase inhibitor that is currently in Phase II for the treatment of Progeria.
After graduating from University of Nairobi, Kenya in first class honors, George completed his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio in 1985 and joined Schering Plough Research Institute (SPRI) in 1988. Dr. Njoroge’s research at SPRI has focused on the design and synthesis of orally bioavailable small molecules for treatment of viral diseases and cancer.
Dr. Njoroge has published extensively in professional journals on synthetic organic chemistry and drug design. Dr. Njoroge is an author or coauthor of more than 134 scientific publications and 100US granted patents. Dr. Njoroge was inducted into “Hall of Fame” as the latest Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society (ACS) at a ceremony held in Philadelphia on August 19th 2012. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including Emerald Award for Professional Achievement in Industry and Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for emerging therapies. Dr. Njoroge was conferred with an Honorary Degree of Pharmaceutical Science by Mount Kenya University in the summer of 2014.
Dr. Njoroge has great passion for science and feels very privileged to have been involved in solving challenging problems that have culminated in benefiting mankind in a very significant way. He looks forward to taking this passion a notch higher by working with accomplished scientists all over the world; he is committed to contributing to future innovations that he believes will lead to discovery of new drugs that will make a difference to the lives of fellow human beings
Dr. Njoroge, second from left, receives honorary doctorate from Mount Kenya University
Dr George Njoroge is a pioneering scientist with over 100 patents in drug discovery in the United States. Born in Kenya, Dr Njoroge at an early age was very intrigued at how his grandmother who was a herbal medicine doctor treated her patients. According to him, seeing his grandmother’s treatment process and how it reciprocated in her patients getting better motivated him to learn more about how biological systems work.
Dr. Njoroge (first from right) was inducted into “Hall of Fame” as the latest Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2012.
With over 30 years’ experience in research, Dr Njoroge is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Lilly.
Previously, he was a Director in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at Merck Research Laboratories in Kenilworth, New Jersey where he oversaw chemistry program in infectious diseases platform.
Through research, his leadership at Merck, an anti-HCV viral drug Victrelis™ (also known as Boceprevir or SCH 503034) was discovered. This medicine was approved by FDA on May 13th, 2011 as the first-in-class therapy for Hepatitis C treatment and is currently in the market.
Over the years, I have received numerous accolades here in the USA and elsewhere, however, being recognized by an afro-centric organization is just remarkable and makes me dance with joyful exhilaration.
Dr George Njoroge on being honoured at the FACE List Awards.
Dr Njoroge has published extensively in professional journals on synthetic organic chemistry and drug design. He has also authored and co-authored 134 scientific publications and has 104 US granted patents under his belt.
A highly decorated scientist, Dr. Njoroge has won numerous awards including the Emerald Award for Professional Achievement in Industry and the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for Emerging Therapies and a host of others. He was also inducted into the “Hall of Fame” as the latest Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2012. In the summer of 2014, he was conferred with an Honorary Degree of Pharmaceutical Science by Mount Kenya University.
Dr Njoroge has a great passion for science and feels very privileged to have been involved in solving challenging problems that have culminated in benefiting mankind in a very significant way.
He looks forward to taking this passion a notch higher by working with accomplished scientists all over the world; he is committed to contributing to future innovations that he believes will lead to the discovery of new drugs that will make a difference.
RENOWED KENYAN-BORN SCIENTIST RECORDS REMARKABLE 100TH US GRANTED PATENTS
Dr. F. George Njoroge, a renowned Kenyan-born scientist made a remarkable achievement on September 2016 by being granted his One Hundredth (100th) patent by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for his work in discovery of molecules to treat a variety of diseases.
This is a herculean effort since many scientists work for many years without achieving a single patent in their life time – Kudos to our Kenyan scientist, Dr. George Njoroge.
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor. Patents are granted for new, useful and non-obvious inventions for a period of 20 years from the filing date of a patent application, and provide the right to exclude others from exploiting the invention during that period, especially for commercial purposes. Notable patents that made a difference in our lives include one by Thomas Edison for the discovery of light bulb in 1880 and improvement of telegraphy by Alexander Graham in 1876 among others.
The patents that have been granted to Dr. Njoroge and his co-inventors cover a cross section of diseases that include cancer and viral therapies. The patent that ultimately resulted to his hundredth invention was US 9,433,621 which was published on September 6th 2016 by USPTO and related to discovery of agents to treat Hepatitis C virus, a disease that affect about 150 million people worldwide. Approximately 700,000 people die each year from Hepatitis C related liver diseases.
Dr. Njoroge and his team previously working at Schering-Plough and Merck corporations discovered VictrelisTM, the first in class HCV protease inhibitor for treatment of Hepatitis C viral disease. This medicine was approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 14th 2011 and was immediately available to patients who desperately needed it. Subsequent to discovery of VictrelisTM, Njoroge’s group came with follow-up, Narlaprevir a drug that was acquired by a Russian company, Rpharm for further development.
Earlier in his career, Dr. Njoroge had extensively researched on ways to arrest cancer and delivered a drug by the name of Sarasar®, that was explored up to Phase III clinical trials – although the aforementioned study was terminated since the drug did not meet the expected end-point, Sarasar® is currently being pursued for treatment of a Progeria, a debilitating diseases where toddlers demonstrate accelerated aging that ultimately in pre-mature death. In phase II clinical trials, Sarasar® in combination with other drugs met clinical efficacy endpoints.
“It is tremendously gratifying to imagine that one has discovered a drug entity that alleviates human sufferings and save people’s lives” asserts Dr. Njoroge with excitement. He admits that the most memorable time of his career was when his invented medicine was approved by FDA to be prescribed to patients who desperately needed it. It gave him a feeling akin to the one that a climber experiences as he achieves the goal of getting to the top of Mt Everest – mission accomplished! The Thank you letters his company received from patients who benefited from VictrelisTM treatment greatly added to his satisfaction and realization that all that science he had mustered over the years was worth every bit of it.
In recognition of his research work, Dr. Njoroge has been feted with numerous accolades over the years and from many corners of the world. He was inducted to “Hall of Fame” as 2012 ACS Hero of Chemistry, an honor given by the American Chemical Society. Subsequently, he was bestowed with the coveted Thomas Edison Award for the discovery of VictrelisTM. Dr. Njoroge was named as ’25 most influential Africans in America’ by The Sun Times in 2010 together with Professor Ngugi wa Thiongo and was conferred with an Honorary Degree of Pharmaceutical Science by Mount Kenya University in the summer of 2014.
Dr. Njoroge has been a great mentor and an inspiration to many young people in Kenya, Diaspora and the world at large. He has also greatly inspired his own children, Joyce Nyaucha and Jesse Kimani both of whom have decided to follow their father’s footsteps. Joyce graduated from Dr. Njoroge’s alma mater, Case Western Reserve University; Cleveland Ohio. Dr. Joyce Nyaucha is in her 3rd year completing her internal medicine at North Western University Hospital and will subsequently join University of California at San Francisco medical center for fellowship in cardiology . Prior to joining Case Western Medical School, Joyce did her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, a university located in Hanover, New Hampshire. This is one of the eight Ivy League schools in the USA. Jesse Kimani is in his 3rd year PharmD program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca New York (another Ivy League school) in 2015. They both enjoy indulging in sciences. Dr. Njoroge is very grateful to his wife, Esther Nyambura, a finance expert, who has painstakingly done a commendable job of assisting and collaborating with him in raising and nurturing these children in the best way possible.
“I cannot wait to return to Kenya and give back to my motherland”, Dr. Njoroge quips. He intends to go back to Kenya very soon and initiate a Centre of Africa’s Life Science (C.O.A.L.S), an institution that he envisions will concentrate on establishing the greatly needed commercial biotechnology and engage young Kenyans in drug discovery efforts.
We welcome to Africa our son after the more than 30 years in foreign land and look forward to your putting Kenya and Africa in the world scientific map – an important realization of our Nation’s 2030 vision.
HIS FUTURE PLANS- HELPING THE NEEDY STUDENTS ESPECIALLY THOSE STUDYING AT HIS FORMER SCHOOL
A VISIT TO THIKA HIGH SCHOOL WHERE HE INTENDS TO REUNITE THE OLD BOYS TO HELP UPLIFT THE STANDARD OF THE SCHOOL THAT WAS AMONG THE MOST FAMOUS NATIONAL SCHOOLS IN THE EARLY 60’S AND 70’S.
Dr. Njoroge will achieve this by uniting Thika High School old boys from 1958 to 2017 with the budding think tank organization “code named” MATHIGA which if decoded stands for Making Thika Great Again and the same is on in a big way just waiting to start with initial funds he has raised as the identified projects designs are currently on the drawing board.
Projects that will go a long way in ensuring that the school standards are maintained and no poor child will be sent home for lack of school fees as the proposed venture will generate some income to cater for such needs.
A noble idea in all fairness and coupled with the many achievements accomplished, will soon make this great Kenyan a possible candidate for the famous Nobel Peace Prize Award.
YES IT’S POSSIBLE!
HIS FUTURE DREAM PROJECT
Dr. F. George Njoroge, PhD, Discoverer of Victrelis, the first Hepatitis C protease inhibitor
CENTRE OF AFRICA’S LIFE SCIENCES – (C.O.A.L.S)
(Applied Sciences to Improve Human Lives)
Create a world class center of life sciences that will nurture growth of biotechnology industry in Africa.
Establish a venue where scientific citizens of the world will learn, communicate, innovate and invent great discoveries in life science and closely related areas. C.O.A.L.S will focus on initiatives that will scientifically and economically benefit the entire human race now and in years to come. These initiatives will include centers of excellence in biological research and medicine. C.O.A.L.S will aspire to create an ambient environment that will be conducive to free thinking and one that will encourage explorations leading to advances in science that would create wealth and pride to our continent. C.O.A.L.S intends to invite investors from various parts of the world to participate in funding these ambitious projects.
Wow…. Wow…. what a man! …..am lost for words to describe this illustrious Kenyan that came to America to pursue his dream with a determination to leave an everlasting impact not only in America, but to the entire world.
Lost for words even further after talking to the soft spoken scientist whom I likened to the scripture that put it thus: “a prophet is respected everywhere except in his home town” True like said, this great scientist has not received a deserving State honor in his own country other than the recent one he received from Mt. Kenya University.
We may not be in a position to honor him with State EBS, CGH and other medals for they don’t exist in the Diaspora and only hope that our Government will consider honoring this great Kenyan during future State functions.
All the same, we in the Diaspora are quite excited and proud to be associated with one of our own that has led other scientist in coming up with cures for ailments that threaten the survival of humans in this planet.
Cures that will make many to believe that the distant past of human civilization would have survived a little longer had they discovered in time medicines to contain certain ailments.
America will boast about Albert Einsten and his theory of relativity, UK will boast about Dr. Fleming and his discovery of the drug Penicillin and Kenya will boast about Dr. Njoroge for his discovery of the Hepatitis C drug VictrelisTM.
Just like many before him, Dr. Njoroge has surely joined the sages of the present, past and future whose names will remain permanently engraved in the corridors of time.
We as people of the Diaspora can only say: “What a great achievement by one of us!”
Dr. Njoroge, YOU ARE OUR HERO!
Columnist and Diaspora Messenger Contributor