Dr. Sevanie Williams is a 29-year-old Cuban-trained Patamona woman, born and brought up at Paramakatoi. For the past six years she has steered her passion for working with hinterland botanicals in the direction of potentially ground-breaking research into re-growing hair follicles and eventually, hair in men with what is known as male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness affects 50% of men worldwide and the research that she is undertaking places her in ‘competition’ with other more elaborate pursuits towards the same end, except that those are mostly backed by billions of dollars of what, invariably, are corporate investments, aware as the investors are of the lucrative returns to be recouped from, the global ‘good looks’ industry.
She believes that – arguably no less than the 2015 disclosure regarding the country’s oil and gas resources – her own recent breakthrough could mark a significant moment for Guyana. That is why, she says, she would welcome a ‘sit down’ with President David Granger (for whom she undertook the translation of a speech in Tuseng Village during the North Pakaraimas Expo 2018 event) to talk with him about what she believes are the steps that her efforts have realized so far and to explore the possibility of a measure of official support for what could, in the final analysis, be an undertaking of major national significance.
Up until now the advancement of her hugely ambitious pursuit has depended largely on the support of members of her family, keen to serve as ‘guinea pigs’ in her hair-regeneration experiment, as supporters in the gathering of the “plants and worms” for her work and as her foremost cheerleaders.
It takes a while to be persuaded that this strikingly articulate if seemingly introverted young woman might well be ‘in the race’ to come up with an answer for male pattern baldness. When she spoke with Stabroek Business about her work earlier this week she brought with her a 14-page synopsis of her research titled ‘Allium and Male Androgenetic Alopecia (GA): A Safer Genetic and Organic Approach to Hair Growth Without DHT Inhibition Coupled With Minimally Invasive 0.25mm Micro-Needles FOR Improved Absorption.’ It is dripping with technicalities.
Male Androgenetic Alopecia or male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss affecting more than fifty per cent of men, 50 years and over. Dr. Williams’ research seeks to lead her to the development of an everyday hair–grooming oil from Allium, an extract from various flowering plants that have been used for thousands of years as remedies for myriad ailments, to potentially regenerate hair follicles and regrow hair in men with pattern baldness. What she envisages will be the end product of her efforts has already been named Kapon.
By peculiar coincidence, another enterprising Guyanese, an agro processor named Lois Rickford can take some measure of credit for the progress which Sevanie’s project has realized so far. At the beginning, he had employed Argan Oil produced from the kernels of the Argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to Morocco as a base for the Kapon. “I had used Argan oil as base for some of the previous oils I had constructed because I detested the smell of coconut oil, but I still wanted to use something we had locally. I tried about all the coconut oils we have available. I was not satisfied. One day I was walking down the pharmacy aisles in Giftland and I saw Lois Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Having tried many I was not very optimistic. To my surprise and joy it was just what I was looking for. I loved the smell and it blended so well with the rest of the ingredients.”
Fluent in the language of her tribe and in both Spanish and Portuguese she explains the significance of her research in flawless English, slipping comfortably from the technical language linked to her research and into the layman’s language necessary to get the attention on the initiated. When she has set aside the weightiness of her scientific explanations she eventually reflects on the journey that brought her to where she is today. “I have always had a deep connection with the forest I grew up in. My grandparents always talked about and showed me plants they used for generations to manage and even cure different ailments that afflicted them. I spent the early years of my life full time with them so I learnt a lot of things. One of the most fascinating things to me was the aspect of either having no hair or having lots of it. It is funny since the having no hair remedies came from my maternal grandmother and having long hair remedies came from my paternal grandparents.”
Afterwards, she produced a photograph of the top of her eighty something year-old grandfather’s head, on which an experimental batch has already been tested. Excitedly, she points to a few strands of black hair which she says have been re-growing since the treatment to his scalp began. Modest though that development is, Sevanie believes that it represents a major breakthrough moment for the project.
Up until now, the project has been significantly supported through an arrangement under which her research pursuits benefit from access to the laboratory and technical staff of the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC). That apart she acknowledges the support of Professor Emanuel Cummings of the University of Guyana whose intervention made the support of the NGPC possible.
Sevanie is understandably excited but determined – at least for now – to keep both feet on the ground. More than that she is mindful of the fact that the assorted plants and worms that lie at the heart of what she firmly believes will be a product of profound global significance have their origins in her broader Amerindian heritage and in Guyana’s rich botanical history. It is the potential cultural, economic and scientific significance of what, for Sevanie, is a single-minded preoccupation that has spawned a fervent desire to engage both the President and the country as a whole.