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Gilbert Boye 1934-2003
Gilbert Boye 1934 – 2003

The field of plant medicine in Africa recently lost an excellent researcher. Prof. Gilbert Boye was a physician and a pharmacologist with the University of Ghana Medical School, Department of Pharmacology. He had been Director of the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicines, founded by the late Dr. Oku Ampofo, and he specialized in conducting clinical trials on the Centre’s plant medicines.

Prof. Gilbert Boye received his medical degree from the Queen’s University of Belfast in Northern Ireland and did his post-graduate Diploma in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Manchester, Manchester, England. He then spent three years at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, as a WHO Fellow in Clinical Pharmacology and subsequently obtained his M.Sc. in Pharmacology at the same institution. He held several posts as House Officer at Belfast City Hospital, Research Fellow at Manchester Royal Infirmary, Senior House Physician at Queen’s University of Belfast and Medical Registrar at Lagan Valley Hospital in Northern Ireland. He returned to Ghana to Lecture in Pharmacology at the University of Ghana Medical School, and later spent a year as Research Fellow in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. He returned to Ghana and became Associate Professor in Pharmacology, and subsequently, Head of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Ghana Medical School.

Most significantly, he was the Director and Physician in Charge of Clinical Research at the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (the Centre) from 1986 to 1994 and carried his belief in and love for plant medicines with him for the rest of his life. He represented Ghana at numerous meetings on traditional medicine and participated in international symposia and workshops on traditional medicine. He helped to establish the Centre as a WHO Collaborating Center of Traditional Medicine and became an avid spokesman for the importance of traditional medicines at many international conferences. He conducted numerous clinical trials evaluating plant medicines for diabetes, hypertension and malaria and published results of all of these trials. He was also the editor of the first Ghana Herbal Pharmacopoeia.

I first met Gilbert Boye in the late eighties. I went to Ghana in the early sixties to set up a medical research laboratory and started working with the late Dr. Oku Ampofo and his plant medicines. I came back in the early seventies to work with Dr. Ampofo in Mampong, which happened to be the time when the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine was born. On another visit in the late eighties, Dr. Ampofo very much wanted me to meet with the doctor who had taken over the directorship of the Centre. I heard much about Dr. Boye even before I met him, as he represented the continuation of Dr. Ampofo’s dream to conduct further research into and expand the use of Ghana’s plant medicines throughout the country.

Over the next few years, I developed an excellent working relationship with Dr. Boye. A company called HealthSearch, which I founded at the request of Dr. Ampofo, entered into a joint venture agreement with the Centre to study into and commercialize certain of their medicinal plants. Dr. Boye was patient, persistent, of good humour, and always eager to help. I don’t believe that the word "no" was a part of his vocabulary. His laughter was unique, as we all can recall; I’ve never heard anyone else laugh like that. Heaven must be resounding with a new sound, with everyone looking to see the new soul who has just joined them

In the mid-nineties, Dr. Ampofo challenged me to acquire GIHOC Pharmaceuticals through the Ghana Government’s Divestiture Implementation Programme. I founded Phyto-Riker Pharmaceuticals, and the Company obtained financing and was successful in winning the bid to take over GIHOC and started selling generic drug products across West Africa. As we turned to the plant medicines, Dr. Boye became a clinical consultant to the company, designing and carrying out clinical trials on the plant medicines which we developed based on recommendations from Dr. Ampofo.

Being a physician, Dr. Boye knew what the plant medicines could do to help patients. His clinical research with patients convinced him of the value of these plant medicines, his understanding of the plant medicines was vast and his contributions were enormous. Of particular importance, I believe, were his contributions to the study of the efficacy of Cryptolepis sanguinolenta in the treatment of malaria. He had published a paper in 1983 entitled "Clinical uses of Cryptolepis sanguinolenta (Asclepiadaceae)," which was published in the Proceedings of the First International Seminar on Cryptolepine.

In 1990, he published another paper entitled "Studies on antimalarial action of Cryptolepis sanguinolenta extract," in the Proceedings of the International Symposium on East-West Medicine which was held in Seoul, Korea.

In late 2001, he confirmed the clinical efficacy of Phyto-Laria®, a tea bag formulation of this same plant, which Phyto-Riker was going to put on the market as its first standardized medicinal plant preparation against malaria. This he did using facilities at the University of Ghana Medical School and those of two Polyclinics. Of the thirty one patients with acute uncomplicated malaria who completed the 28-day observation period, all had cleared their parasitaemia by Day 5. The cure rate at Day 7 was therefore 100% and the fever clearance time was as early as 12 hours.

We are expecting the results of that trial to be published soon. That publication should win Cryptolepis international respect as an anti-malarial, and the results of that study will become one of Dr. Boye’s greatest legacies. Also, please refer to the article about Cryptolepis in this issue of HerbalGram, written by Prof. Marian Addy of the University of Ghana, in which she cited Dr. Boye’s two defining studies on patients with malaria.

The world of medicinal science has lost a researcher, a great mind, and a mentor. But, it is the loss of his knowledge that we mourn. When a person with such knowledge dies, they say it is as if "a library has burned down." His knowledge and experience were unique and can never be replaced. He has gone to join Dr. Ampofo and others who also took a great deal of knowledge with them. We who are left and who believe in what these plant medicines can do are left with the responsibility to amass new knowledge and build new libraries.

– Diane Robertson Winn Executive Vice President Phyto-Riker PharmaceuticalsWashington, D.C.