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Philippines
Green opportunities in health and wellness
by the Go Negosyo team
14-April-2008 The Philippine STAR

Agriculture and medicine have been the most rapid growth areas of biotechnology for the past 20 years, but recent preference for preventive, rather than curative, measures toward health has given space for a wellness industry to boom.

“A lot of our native resources are rich with health benefits that only need to be discovered and developed,” said Dr. Vermen

Verallo-Rowell, a respected dermatologist and founder of VMV Skin Research Centre (VSRC), who has been promoting the “coconut lifestyle” for some three years now.

A pioneer in the field of cosmetic and clinical dermatology, Verallo-Rowell has long established her niche in the industry, but refuses to stop doing research, which she considers her passion. In fact, she has been continuously publishing her discoveries in medical journals.

But before VSRC, she was best known for starting her own company, VMV Hypoallergenics, which offers a unique brand of hypoallergenic cosmoceuticals. Instead of focusing on merchandising details, however, she was busy on product research and development, which she said was the foundation of healthy skin. Her years of studies and tests led her to the potentials of the native coconut.

“It has been a well-entrenched myth that coconut oil is bad oil, but it’s not,” she explained. She said that coconuts can serve as natural antibiotics, which control acne and disinfect the skin. “It has numerous benefits for the heart, skin and resistance against cancer.”

Dr. Gisela Concepcion said that our biodiverse environment does offer a lot of possibilities for cures and preventive measures. “A lot of our natural resources contain compounds that can be used to offer cheap and healthier products,” she said.

Concepcion owns BioMart Asia Inc., a young company that produces high-quality skin and health care and veterinary products made from local herbs and plants. “Most of our products contain compounds such as flavonoids, tannins and polyphenols that are known to possess anti-oxidant properties as well as other desirable effects such as antimicrobial, chemoprotective, cancer preventive, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties,” she explained.

“These are what we called ‘Biogenins’ which have been the trademark ingredient of our product line,” she added. Biogenins refer to a class of phytochemicals or plant secondary metabolite primarily consisting of compounds found in fruits, vegetables and woody plants.

Though their product line is made from local herbs and plants, BioMart Asia has been using French technology and processes. Some of their products also make use of patented French ingredients. “I wanted to offer quality products that are affordable because I wanted to show that good things need not be expensive,” she said.

On the other hand, Dr. Rainier Villanueva is bringing Filipino technology abroad. His company, Rainiers Research and Development Institute (RRDI), has been the first Filipino herbal company that established a manufacturing facility in the United States.

RRDI offers manufacturing services on cosmoceutical, nutraceutical (food and dietary supplements) and home care products. These products have also been distributed in some parts of Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.

“The company aims to come up with quality and effective herbal based cosmetic products without distorting the normal anatomy and the physiology of the human hair and skin,” he said. His discovery and first formula on “lawat” (litsea glutinosa), a medicinal plant indigenous to Masbate, his hometown, has earned him his niche in the industry and won him an award in the 27th Salon International des Inventions held at Geneva, Switzerland. Lawat is traditionally used in Visayan provinces to prevent hair whitening and hair loss.

“There’s a big market for falling hair because most of us use petroleum-based shampoo which is good for making hair soft but causes it to fall. Petroleum products are the cheapest material for softening hair, but this causes our sebaceous gland to no longer produce oil and make hair fall,” he explained.

Villanueva said that herbal and natural-based products are great because they are healthier, more affordable, a good alternative to synthetic drugs and free from side effects.

“If the government will promote medicinal plants in embassies worldwide, we will create a big demand. That’s what Mahathir of Malaysia did with a billion market in ‘tung kat ali’ which increases the immune system,” he said.

Since 1999, the worldwide herbal medicine market alone has been growing at 10 to 20 percent yearly while herbal cosmetics generated a billion in revenues. This is yet excluding the boom of the wellness industry in the past years. Even the local market is estimated at P1 billion, excluding markets for approved herbal medicines like sambong, lagundi, tsaang gubat, akapulko, and yerba buena.

“Our natural resources present a lot of opportunities, if only we invest in research and development,” said Verallo-Rowell.

On April 16, Joey Concepcion, founding trustee of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE), together with Maoi Arroyo of Hybridigm Consulting will lead the conferring of recognitions to Verallo-Rowell, Villanueva and Concepcion for their contributions, as among Go Negosyo’s Most Inspiring Biotechnology Entrepreneurs, in the 4th Annual Philippine Biotechnology Venture Summit at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health Auditorium in Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City.

The Summit is organized by Hybridigm Consulting, in cooperation with PCE Go Negosyo. PCE has been recognizing inspiring entrepreneurs throughout the country to present them as role models, in line with PCE’s vision to create an entrepreneurial culture in the country.

The public is invited to attend the Biotechnology Venture Summit to discover and learn innovative business ideas and new opportunities in the biotech field. For more information on the Biotech Summit, call 8108639 or log on to “http://summit.philbiotech.net”, http://summit.philbiotech.net.

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