By Malum Nalu

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 4) - Papua New Guinean scientist Dr Clement Waine is blazing the trail as a research biologist and Principal Investigator with the Du Pont Crop Genetics Research and Development in the United States.

Waine says there is a growing pool of highly trained PNG scientists whose skills can be used for cutting-edge research. He believes pharmaceutical research should be carried out to harness the country’s rich biodiversity to develop new medicines and chemical products.

Dr Waine — from Kurumugl village, outside Kundiawa, Chimbu Province — has been at Du Point since September 2001, first as a visiting research scientist and from last September as research biologist.

"My expertise is in Structural Biology of Proteins so I lead our group in this area," he says.

"I am also leading the Plant Protein Discovery Group. 

"In both responsibilities, we have international collaborators in several countries that I also 


"I also provide expert advice to other groups within the company as well as line agencies of USA Government on product registration and regulatory approvals."

From September 2001 to August 2002, Dr Waine was a visiting research scientist with Du Pont Crop Genetics.

"I was recruited as a visiting scientist in September 2001 and I was involved in building the structural biology facility, especially the computational tools for molecular graphics, display and modelling from the ground up," he explains.

"We now have in-house capabilities for structural biology — protein structure determination and modelling. 

"I have also developed and standardised for in-house use protein extraction protocols for discovering bioactive proteins from plant sources.

"Using these protocols I have discovered several novel protein molecules that destroy specific crop pests and these are now moved up the product development pipeline. 

"We hope to develop several products in the next few years."

Dr Waine was born in Mendi, Southern Highlands, on April 27, 1969.

He attended Agle Primary School in his Chimbu Province from 1977 to 1982, followed by Kerowagi High School from 1983 to 1986.

Grades 11 and 12 followed at Sogeri National High School in 1987 and 1988.

The young Clement Waine completed his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1992 and his Honours in 1993.

From 1997 to 2000, the University of Queensland, where he completed his PhD, employed him as a research scholar. 

Dr Waine was awarded his PhD degree at the age of 30 years, making him perhaps PNG’s youngest PhD graduate.

He returned to UPNG after completing his PhD and was teaching undergraduate physical chemistry and supervising one post-graduate diploma student until recruited by Du Pont where he has been since.

Dr Waine has established himself as one of the few highly-trained and knowledgeable PNG scientists with an international credibility and reputation; pioneered the discovery of a novel class of protein while undergoing Phd research; figured out how best to solve a highly intractable computational problem while still doing Honours research; and has published over 20 papers in international scientific publications.

"During my PhD research," he recalls, "I pioneered the discovery of a novel class of protein that I called ‘cyclotide’ in my thesis. 

"My thesis was the world’s first comprehensive report describing the discovery and characterisation of these proteins and was reviewed internationally.

"Conventional proteins, as ordinary people know, are long chains but cyclotides are formed like necklace with the two ends stitched together forming a ring structure. 

"At this point in time, nobody knows how the ends are stitched together and my best guess is that whoever discovers the mechanism will be a millionaire some day! 

"The research I started at University of Queensland is now expanded to involve 17 other students and researchers. 

"Several other labs are involved around the world. 

"This discovery was patented in USA/Canada, Australia, Japan, China and Europe and two spin-off companies were formed in Australia."

At UPNG in 1993, Dr Waine figured out how best to solve a highly intractable computational problem.

"The results were patented in Canada and a spin-off company was formed to market the patent," he recalls. "Applications are numerous and varied, including detection of incoming missiles and ideally suited for the patriot defence system developed by US Defence Department. 

"For instance, I was answering such questions like — if several missiles were projected towards a common enemy from different locations, how could the common enemy defend it by sending counter-missiles to intercept the trajectories? 

"A paper was published in 1997 — it was initially submitted in 1995 but people never thought such a work could be done in PNG! 

"After asking around we located the paper in a professor’s lab in a North American university and retracted it.

"A second submission after we were out of PNG was eventually published. 

"Did the world believe that no advanced science could ever come out of UPNG, not to mention PNG?"

Dr Waine believes that PNG, as a nation, needs a paradigm shift in its people’s attitudes based on honesty, respect and hard work.

He also believes that PNG needs politicians who are "lateral thinkers" and not "cyclic thinkers".

Dr Waine is of the view that since independence, government investment/expenditure on development of pure and applied research in PNG has been non-existent. 

"There are two areas that I think the Government should consider as a matter of critical importance and start investing in them — Information Technology (IT) and BioTechnology (BT)," he says.

"There are two products that are currently selling like hot cakes around the world — mobile phones and seeds — both are products of IT and BT, respectively.

"BT-related investments can be channelled into two fronts — pharmaceutical and agriculture. 

He continues: "The Government now has a policy — at least a publicly stated view — on the so-called ‘Green Revolution’, which is anticipated to increase investment and productions in agriculture. 

"I suggest that they should incorporate a research component and support/fund existing institutions like NARI. 

"Pharmaceutical researches should be geared towards harnessing the country’s rich biodiversity in order to develop new medicines/ pharmaceutical and agrochemical products.

"My estimate is this: if the Government invests K10-30 million in both agriculture and pharmaceutical researches every year, PNG scientists could come up with products that could be licensed to large corporations for further development. 

"In this way, the nation will gain substantially from licensing fees and royalties. 

"This could in fact become one of the biggest exports for the country. 

"This notion would be a lateral thinking one!

"There is now a critical mass of highly trained PNG scientists, both in academia and other statutory and private agencies that can be pooled and funded to do cutting-edge research. 

"The Government needs to realise this potential and invest in it."

February 6, 2004

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:


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