Dengue fever’s a potentially fatal virus found in tropical countries. Papaya’s a fruit plant grown in the tropics. Ex-Queenstowner Raymond Young tells PHILIP CHANDLER how he’s using leaf extracts from the latter to help combat the former
A Japan-based entrepreneur using papaya leaf extracts to combat the dengue virus has deep roots in Queenstown.
Following about six years’ research, Raymond Young’s about to put dengue virus-fighting supplements on the market in Malaysia.
Born in Christchurch, Young was raised in Queenstown, and though he won’t reveal his age, admits he went to the former Queenstown District High School in the ’60s.
A health food entrepreneur, his family, too, had green fingers — his grandparents had a nursery business and his father, Ivan Young, was sent down to Dunedin to open a branch.
Young senior, however, left the business and moved to Queenstown in ‘62.
He curated the former Queenstown Borough Council’s parks and reserves for the following 14 years.
Young senior bought land at Frankton by the Kawarau River, and started zoological gardens on neighbouring council reserve in the ’70s, after originally taking in abandoned animals — he was affectionately known as Queenstown’s ‘Dr Dolitte’.
Young junior, who had three siblings, recalls helping his dad build rock walls.
His father died in 2013, aged 88, having been married to his mum, Daphne, who’s still alive, for 66 years.
A year later, Queenstown’s council formally named the zoological reserve after Ivan Young.
Raymond Young, who left Queenstown after school to work for his grandparents’ nursery business, at one stage dabbled in non-horticulture.
He started Niue Airline in 1990, running flights from Auckland to Niue.
However it ceased operating two years later.
In 2012, he started Fuller Young International Ltd along with a neurosurgeon, Associate Professor Patrick Fuller.
They came up with a supplement made from mineral water and other products that fought jetlag, but later sold the IP to an organisation in the United States, Young says.
Fuller himself resigned as a director when he got too busy.
When Young, who has a Japanese wife, decided to move to Japan he took on a Queenstown director, so his company could stay New Zealand-registered.
He says he was partly inspired to research papaya’s health properties by his Singapore-based daughter, who was worried about her children contracting dengue virus, and had heard papaya leaf extracts might be an antidote.
In the course of research, Young’s ended up growing his own variety of papaya, called Wakatengu, first in Japan, and now also in Northland, at Plant & Food Research’s Kerikeri
orchard, where it’s in its second season.
In both Japan and NZ it’s grown as an annual crop, only, whereas in the tropics it grows for at least seven years.
Among other research institutions, he’s enlisted NZ’s Callaghan Innovation.
He admits his supplements aren’t the first dengue fever antidote.
‘‘There’s a couple of products on the market in India they say can treat dengue virus, how effective they are I don’t know.
‘‘But I think we’ve got a product that’s up there with the very best.
‘‘We’ve done our tests, we know our product is high in the compounds required, and we think it will work well.’’
Meanwhile, Young’s also looking into the health benefits of green, unripe papaya fruit.
Deceased’s dad welcomes news of antidote
One Queenstown family’s been devastated by dengue fever.
Pip Greig, 37, died from it in Mexico in 2019 several days after being bitten by a mosquito.
Her dad Rob Greig says it’s welcome news a treatment’s been found.
‘‘There just hasn’t been any antidote around, and if somebody’s able to find something that works, we would certainly welcome that.
‘‘People just totally underestimate what it can do, and since Pip’s death, a number of people have approached us and said, ‘look, we’ve had dengue fever once, are we at risk?’’’
Rob says he’d even offer to help out Raymond Young if he can.