A clear vial filled with amber fluid rests on scientist Ilya Raskin's desk, glinting in the autumn sunlight streaming through his office window. The container, a small glass bottle with a plain white screw-top, contains a substance Raskin calls 006. "Double-zero-six" is potentially more precious than the rarest topaz.
Raskin is a biochemist at Rutgers University's Biotechnology Center. The golden liquid on his desk may prove to be one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances ever discovered. "It contains a derivative of a plant known as grains of paradise, or Aframomum melegueta, a member of the ginger family," said Raskin. The compound works in a similar way to the well-known anti-inflammatory drugs Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra but, it is hoped, without their side effects, said Raskin and other scientists.