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UWI Launches New Lab To Do Research

Minister of Science and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz (centre), cuts the ribbon to officially open the new Field Trip Natural Products Lab launched at the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies, Mona, on Tuesday (February 9). Sharing the moment (from left) are Director of Botanical Sciences at Field Trip Health, Melissa Dawn; Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal, UWI, Mona, Prof. Dale Webber; Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Professor Michael Taylor and Director, Natural Products Institute, UWI, Mona, Professor Rupika Delgoda.

The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, in partnership with Field Trip Health, has launched a new laboratory dedicated to the study of psilocybin, which aims to conduct research that will better offer medical treatments for persons in need.

The facility, called the Field Trip Natural Products Lab, was launched at the Faculty of Science and Technology at UWI, Mona, on Tuesday (February 9).

Field Trip is a Canadian-based company that focuses on the advancement of medical health science and psychedelic-assisted therapy.

In his address at the ceremony, Minister of Science and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz, said he is pleased to join UWI, Mona, and partners for the launch of the laboratory.

“As far as we are aware, this lab is the first of its kind, not just in Jamaica but also in the world, so this is a historic moment for the advancement of science and scientific research in Jamaica,” Minister Vaz said.

He said the launch of this lab comes at a time when the world is battling fierce and infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“I am pleased that this facility will employ Jamaican scientists, researchers, doctoral students and leading science experts to guide the research that will ultimately produce extracts that may be used for the treatment of mental health-related issues,” he said.

“Under our Vision 2030 plan, a healthy and stable population is an important national outcome. Our vision is to create a country with a healthcare system that is well-equipped and fully staffed with highly trained individuals, thus increasing our abilities to fight infectious diseases,” he added.

Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the UWI, Professor Dale Webber, gave an overview of the partnership.

“What we are marking and what we are opening is about research. It is first and foremost about basic scientific fundamental research, which is always necessary to underpin the pursuance of solutions to problems that we face as a society,” Professor Webber said.

“In this particular case, if you stop to think of the numbers diagnosed with forms of mental illness each year, those numbers are staggering, and perhaps staggering even in a time like this which we are going through, a pandemic, which drives up the numbers of those diagnosed,” he added.

He also noted that there has long been a recognition of the need for alternative treatment options to the drug Jamaica currently has, especially treatment options that rely on natural treatment substances.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Field Trip Health, Joseph del Moral, acknowledged the support from the Government of Jamaica for this initiative.

“It is the visionary leadership of the Government that the important work we are doing here can advance. The groundbreaking work we are doing has the potential to ripple out and affect the lives and mental health of people around the world, so in fostering innovation, science and research, I’d like to specifically thank the Hon. Minister for Science and Technology, Daryl Vaz, and the Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton,” he said.

He also thanked UWI, Mona, for partnering.

“We’re fortunate to be able to partner with an institution that is well respected around the world to do this research,” he said.

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