Sea cucumbers – odd-looking marine animals with leathery skins and elongated bodies – can be found on ocean floors worldwide. Although more famous as a culinary delicacy in East and Southeast Asia, one Malaysian company – Healwell – is using these primitive creatures to save lives.
Dr Hassan Yaakob, Healwell’s founder explains. “Our products sit between traditional and modern medicine. When there were claims about a special type of primitive sea cucumber which only came out at night and would melt if exposed to sunlight, we conducted research on it, discovering it contained collagens and polysaccharide.”
Yaakob continues, “When heated under a certain temperature, it degrades into polypeptide. That polypeptide is a molecule which is a rejuvenating agent which prevents sickness. It has shown remarkable successes treating a number of hereditary diseases. For example, a baby was born with a hereditary disease affecting one in five million babies, causing parts of the body to become necrotic, and usually leading to death by the age of eight years old. Her family was considering amputating one of her legs, but we let her consume our product, and within less than one week, she showed signs of recovery. A full recovery was observed after three months. She is still alive today, 18 years later, although she is reliant on our star product Gamogen.”
Despite this proven success, Healwell has found seeking registration for its unusually-sourced products challenging. Yaakob notes, “Since our first research, we have conducted clinical trials in Japan over a period of one year, and we continue to conduct clinical research on our products in Japan. After the clinical trials, we even planned to register the product with the US FDA. However, this was not deemed possible by the FDA, who claimed that our product was food. For this reason, we could not register the process.”
However, Yaakob is sanguine about this FDA rejection, noting that “In spite of this, it may, in fact, be preferable not register with the FDA, as the processes we use would have to be publicized ten years after registration. We want our processes to remain the proprietary knowledge of the company, as there are a number of companies attempting to imitate our products that have been unsuccessful in replicating our quality.”