medicines from the medicinal plants of southern Africa project
report for the period 1 July 2003 - 30 September 2003
format 215 kb)
poses a serious threat to the population in the tropical and
sub-tropical regions of our subcontinent. The appearance
of drug-resistant strains of the Malaria parasite has materially
worsened this danger, and this has become a major stumbling
block to economic development and tourism in the affected areas.
subcontinent has a rich floral diversity, totalling about 24
000 species. Of these, about 4 000 species are used in
traditional medicine for medicinal purposes. The consortium
owns a database containing 2 300 records of 700 plants claimed
to be used in the treatment or prevention of malaria.
problem is that the usefulness of these traditional remedies
for the treatment of Malaria has not been systematically investigated,
and the country is therefore not in a position to benefit from
this significant genetic resource and indigenous knowledge base.
Such an evaluation is urgent, since urbanisation and
other factors are rapidly reducing the availability of first-hand
information on traditional medicines.
key task is the creation of a focused multidisciplinary scientific
capability to derive anti-malarial medicines from the known
medicinal plants of Southern Africa, so that:
- Significant economic benefits
for South Africa are generated through product innovation.
are created through the cultivation and processing of indigenous
plants with anti-malarial properties.
technology platform, consisting of al the elements of the
"value-chain" for drug discovery, is created, i.e. a proven
and capable infrastructure of people and facilities, allowing
South Africa to attain its rightful place in the expanding
market for plant-derived medicines.
are channelled back to the communities, ensuring full recognition
of the importance of the intellectual property of the traditional
The aim of the project is
to develop new medicines, based on indigenous plants and indigenous
knowledge, for the treatment of Malaria. The project is
expected to lead to the establishment of new agro-processing
businesses for the supply of extracted plant material that will
be used in the new anti-malarial drug.
information regarding the use of approximately 700 plants in
the prevention or cure of Malaria is contained in databases
developed separately by members of the consortium. The
proposed project will combine this information as well as forge
a multi-disciplinary team that can provide the technical skills
and research facilities required to develop a novel plant based
claimed anti-malarial properties of plants selected from the
databases and by traditional doctors as part of the ongoing
collaboration with the consortium, will be scientifically investigated. The
selected plants will be collected, taxonomically identifies,
extracted, and tested for biological activity in multi-dose
and multi-strain in-vivo tests. Active extracts are fractionated,
using biological assays as indicator, until the level of a standardised
extract or a pure compound is reached.
An agro-processing project,
aimed at establishing whether plants with scientifically proven
anti-malarial properties can be successfully cultivated and
processed will be put in place during the early stages of the
proposed project. The agro-processing focus will initially
be on two specific plants shown by the UCT group to have potential
to combat the chloroquine resistance of certain Malaria strains.
New medicinal substances
will be subjected to refined pharmacological evaluations aimed
at determining their selectivity, toxicity, mechanism of action
and immunology. Then follows the determination of chemical
structure, synthesis of logical derivatives and the development
of reliable analytical methods.
is expected that the project will add value to our indigenous
plants and indigenous knowledge as follows:
of new therapeutic agents for combating of malaria.
earnings through patenting and out-licensing of anti-malarial
product leads to the pharmaceutical industry.
- Job creation through establishment
of agro-processing businesses for the supply of active substances
derived from cultivated indigenous plants.
project is being undertaken by a consortium comprising the South
African Medical Research Council (MRC) (Lead agency), University
of Cape Town (UCT), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR), National Botanical Institute (NBI), University of Western
Cape and University of Pretoria (UP) and is funded by the Department
of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) through the
Innovation Fund. The Project Leader is Prof Peter Folb
- Head of Pharmacology, UCT, and Director of MRC/UCT Traditional
Medicines Unit and the Business Manager is Dr Niresh Bhagwandin
- Manager: Business Development, MRC. The project budget
is R6,7 million extending over 3 years (2001 - 2003).