Accolade: Pakistani scientist features on leading American journal

Published: November 26, 2013

“We have demonstrated the fundamental concept of the technology and are now getting ready for field tests later this year” Muhammad Hamid Zaman. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

A leading American science magazine has listed a technology by a Pakistani scientist in its ‘World Changing Idea’ list– the magazine’s annual feature for the recognition of the world’s top ten technologies that have potential to change the world.

On November 19, Scientific American – a reputable science journal based in the United States (US) – recognised Muhammad Hamid Zaman, a Pakistani biomedical engineer, for his innovative product Pharmacheck, which was chosen by the magazine as one of the world’s top 10 technologies for its December, 2013 issue.

Every year, the magazine chooses 10 technologies that have the potential to change the world and publish this list. The selection process, Zaman told The Express Tribune, is controlled only by the journal and no one can nominate himself as they make their own selections based on the potential impact of the discovery or technology.

Pharmacheck is a technology that is able to test the drug quality and its potency in a matter of minutes, Zaman said. It is not just a scratch code to see if the packaging is right, it tests the ingredients of the drugs and whether they are in the right amount and right chemical composition, he said. “We hope to bring it to the market for commercial use within the next 12 to 18 months.”

According to the Scientific American, up to 30% of medicines in developing countries are substandard that can cause severe side effects and death. Many of these countries lack routine inspections or have scarce testing equipment. Pharmacheck, it says in its November 20th-report, may offer a portable, inexpensive and informative solution.

Though this recognition is awarded from a global perspective, the product has huge implications for Pakistan and its medicine regulation, believes Zaman who is Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Medicine and International Health at Boston University.

“I grew up in Pakistan so I have always known the challenges associated with drug quality,” the biomedical engineer said, explaining what led him to come up with this idea. “But it was two years ago that we were approached by the US Pharmacopeia and the United States Agency for International Development to address the global problem of substandard and counterfeit drugs that kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.”

Though he was already working on his product, his homeland suffered a major setback that such a product might have prevented.

“The Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) tragedy in Lahore further strengthened my resolve to do something in this regard,” Zaman said.

The 2012 PIC incident is, arguably, the biggest medical tragedy in the country’s history. As per official data, as many as 165 people died after consuming spurious drugs that PIC provided to heart patients.

While the PIC tragedy still haunts the nation’s memories, what may be even more painful is how Zaman’s requests for field tests of the product were treated by his country.

“We have demonstrated the fundamental concept of the technology and are now getting ready for field tests later this year,” Zaman said. “I would love to do this in Pakistan as well, but despite multiple requests, no one seems to be interested in addressing this comprehensively,” he said.

“Right now, we are looking at life-saving drugs, including antibiotics, anti-malarials and uterotonics – given to save mothers dying from post-partum bleeding,” Zaman said describing the drugs they will test first. “All of these have high impact in Pakistan with its high burden of disease,” he said.

Zaman said he is hopeful that the country’s drug industry and regulators would take the challenge of substandard drugs seriously and ensure public safety and public health as poor quality drugs not only kill but also inflict financial damage.

“Many of Pakistan’s challenges are also felt in other parts, so our solutions will not just impact Pakistan but many other nations and people around the world.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Junaid
    Nov 26, 2013 - 1:16AM

    Congrats Muhammad Hamid Zaman! and best of luck!!

    Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Nov 26, 2013 - 1:16AM

    Awesome!

    Recommend

  • Zif
    Nov 26, 2013 - 1:34AM

    Yes,yes,we do need pharmacheck in Pakistan. Thank you Hamid Zaman for making us proud. Salute you for the unique innovation.

    Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Nov 26, 2013 - 1:35AM

    jetey raho…we are proud of you….may Allah swt give more success….may Allah swt give our govt a shake up to come out of their cocoon and once live to let live others.

    Recommend

  • Saleem
    Nov 26, 2013 - 1:50AM

    Bravo! I am baffled why Pakistani regulators will not test this home grown solution?

    Recommend

  • Zimbabwe
    Nov 26, 2013 - 8:52AM

    mashaallah, great work. Keep it up

    Recommend

  • abdussamad
    Nov 26, 2013 - 9:04AM

    @Saleem:
    It is not a home grown solution. He works in the USA. Surely you didn’t think that a Pakistani company would finance innovation?

    But, yeah, if you read that article, which I tried to post the link to in another comment that seems to have run foul of the mods, you will see that he is testing his device in Indonesia and another country. Pakistan was not open to helping him test his team’s invention.

    Recommend

  • sana
    Nov 26, 2013 - 10:36AM

    The selection process, Zaman told The
    Express Tribune, is controlled only by
    the journal and no one can nominate
    himself as they make their own
    selections based on the potential
    impact of the discovery or technology.

    cough umar saif cough

    Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Nov 26, 2013 - 11:02AM

    This is a very useful product. Congratulations to this young Pakistani scientist.

    Recommend

  • Ashok
    Nov 26, 2013 - 11:04AM

    Congratulations to Muhammad Hamid Zaman. Keep up the good work.

    Recommend

  • Raheel
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:21PM

    Has off to Zaman. Please never even think of coming to Pakistan or you will be insulted and destroyed by the corrupt bureaucracy in this country especially in corruption ruled sindh province

    Recommend

  • Mohammad Salman Khan Ghauri
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:36PM

    Dear hamid,
    Congratulation to you for developing such a nice thing. I think in Pakistan we need such a thing which may help our health department to check the efficacy of the product. It also save lot of many to our poor nation.Recommend

  • Nov 26, 2013 - 5:19PM

    I hope this is not like the “scientist” who ran his car on water.

    Recommend

  • Nov 26, 2013 - 6:10PM

    This is a wonderful achievement and must be given due coverage by all forms of media in our country. Knowing the fact that we have least done in the world of sciences internationally, this young scientist must be given a huge support in all aspects.

    Recommend

  • Moiz Omar
    Nov 26, 2013 - 6:29PM

    Congrats to the scientist! Proud to be Pakistani.

    Recommend

  • faiz
    Nov 26, 2013 - 8:48PM

    no need of pharmach

    Recommend

  • Bagh Hussain
    Nov 26, 2013 - 9:35PM

    Great People have Great Ideas for Humanity. Proud to Pakistani Zaman

    Recommend

  • Bagh Hussain
    Nov 26, 2013 - 9:35PM

    Great People have Great Ideas for Humanity. Proud to Pakistani Zaman

    Recommend

  • Mustafa
    Nov 26, 2013 - 10:17PM

    Great great great job…… Hats on you

    Recommend

  • Haris Awan
    Nov 27, 2013 - 12:03AM

    Zaman did wonderful job.That shows, we just don’t only build atom bomb or JF-17 thunder now we proudly say we will save humans life too :) GOOD job Zaman

    Recommend

  • saleem
    Nov 27, 2013 - 5:29AM

    well done ,many thanxRecommend

  • Mohammad Afzal
    Nov 27, 2013 - 4:50PM

    Well done Zaman. I am afraid you will not get support from Pakistani drug industry since it is to their advantage to sell ecapsulated dirt to the general public while the politicians and their families receive medical treatment abroad.

    Prof. M. AfzalRecommend

  • Mariam
    Nov 27, 2013 - 6:50PM

    Great !

    Recommend

  • Nov 30, 2013 - 5:00PM

    dear br, it is great work done….hope u will be positive for Muslims & Pakistani nation…ALLAH ALMIGHTY give courage for betterment.

    kind rgds.

    maqbool a. soomroRecommend

  • Sahib Tahir
    Nov 30, 2013 - 7:31PM

    Please accept my heartiest congratulations for this invention. I am not in medicine field but our Pakistan needs quite a lot of improvements in this area. God bless you. Recommend

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