UP inventor models ’IP for IP’ - intellectual property for indigenous people

Published on March 7, 2019



Money is a means, not an end. This is what Dr. Gracia Yu, an award-winning biochemist from UP Manila, believes as she champions her anti-inflammatory invention (now on the cusp of being commercialised), in the name of the indigenous group who helped in its discovery.



Ornathrex, a food supplement (tea powder) with both a registered trademark and a patent pending at the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, was developed on a promise, shared Dr. Yu.


“I’ve always had an advocacy to make my research applicable and beneficial to the local community. Ornathrex is a natural product I discovered, which was extracted from the endemic plant of the Aetas in Morong. I promised to help them with their livelihood with this discovery. They will have a share in all the sales earned from the product,” Dr. Yu remarked


In working with the Aetas, Dr. Yu discovered there was a use of the calamus ornatus plant beyond the known easing of diarrhea: there was an added effect of anti-inflammation.


“Being a researcher, I know that if the plant can be used for diarrhea, there may be something more to discover and true enough in my research, I isolated chemical compounds that are known to be active against inflammation,” said Dr. Yu, explaining the origins of the Ornathrex.


It is in keeping with this promise that Dr. Yu forges on with her product development of Ornathrex together with another brilliant woman scientist: National Scientist Dr. Lourdes Cruz.


Dr. Cruz inspired her to lift the Aetas’ living through her research, said Dr. Yu, and together they have authored the patent for it.


Dr. Yu, already undertook basic research of the plant (exploring the raw materials, pre-clinical trials, toxicity checks,etc) in priming it first as a food supplement.


But, like many with intellectual property or those preparing to receive IP protection, Dr. Yu is measuring possible challenges in commercialisation.


“There are many who want to help us out, but I’m cautious in potentially giving this to a big company. I’m not guaranteed that the advocacy to the Aetas will be fulfilled,that’s why I’m proposing to have my own start-up enterprise, to market it. That will be set up soon,” she shared.


In the meantime, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines is doing its part in enabling the advocacy-minded inventor: the patent for Ornathrex was facilitated by IPOPHL’s  Innovation and Technology Support Office (ITSO) in UP Manila, and through that, was able to avail of the the Patent Protection Incentive Package (PPIP).


The PPIP is a program in which all patent-related fees will be waived for 15 years for applications entered thru University-based  Patent Office franchise, which are the ITSOs.


To further boost market awareness, Dr. Yu’s anti-inflammatory product was recognised as the 2014 Alfredo M. Yao Intellectual Property Awards Grand Prize Winner


For 2019, Dr.Yu is going full steam ahead on developing Ornathrex, gathering investments in clinical trials to secure approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This will pave the way to be able to market it as a herbal medicine.


“This year, I’m looking forward to the phase 1 of this product (hurdling clinical tests), and the establishment of the company itself to prepare for the wider commercialisation.   I have to fulfill my promise to the Aetas. If there are obstacles in my way, it won’t stop me, it’ll only make me more aggressive in fulfilling my promise,” said Dr. Yu.