Natural health products research conference could kick-start industry, biochemist believes

Besides the obvious benefits of bringing together hundreds of scientists who study natural health products, a UWindsor biochemist hopes a major conference here next week will help people realize the potential of an already growing industry that could create new jobs and growth in that sector.

“Many people don’t know that Windsor is a place where the natural health product industry is already flourishing,” said Siyaram Pandey, a key organizer of the tenth annual Natural Health Products Research Society conference being held May 12-15 at Caesars Windsor.

Consisting primarily of chemists, biologists and botanists, the society’s mission is to facilitate and support meaningful, scientifically rigorous research and education in the field of natural health products. The conference will bring together more than 150 delegates from around the world to hear more than 100 presentations, many from some of the top researchers in their field.

Dr. Pandey, whose lab has made great strides studying the impacts of dandelion roots and other natural derivatives and compounds on various cancers and Parkinson’s disease, said local companies like Suntrition, Nutranorth, Accucaps and Jamieson Laboratories – one of the conference’s main sponsors – are already doing very well here.

“We have the industry in the area, we have the research, and we have the capacity to grow any health product, so it made great sense to bring this conference here,” he said.

Rakesh Naidu, acting chief operating officer at the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, couldn’t agree more.

“I think there’s huge potential,” he said, noting that 25 per cent of Canadian households currently have some kind of natural health product in their home, a figure expected to jump to 100 per cent by 2025.

Naidu said this region has everything it needs to support the sector: vast amounts of greenhouse space that can provide a consistent supply of quality raw ingredients, as well as above-average rates of return on investment for farmers; excellent research facilities between the university and the agricultural research station in Harrow; and a highly skilled workforce with plenty of already existing manufacturing infrastructure.

“We can cover the entire supply chain here,” he said. “We’re looking at a region here that could really take to the natural health products sector.”

Pandey will appear today on Research Matters, a weekly talk show that focuses on the work of University of Windsor researchers and airs every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on CJAM 99.1 FM.

For more information, visit the conference web site.