Why institutions, government should promote research on indigenous plants

A basic medical expert, Professor Ebenezer Farombi, says more than before, institutions and the government should promote research on local and indigenous materials with the sole aim of solving diseases peculiar to the African continent.

Professor Farombi, in the 43rd University of Ibadan lecture series he gave entitled “From Bench to Bedside and Beyond: Building Capacity in Translational Research”, said many diseases that still require cure or meaningful treatment options still abound in the region, adding that foreign countries are unlikely to give them serious attention.

Farombi, a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Toxicology, said the prospect of deriving drugs from plants in developing countries is good because untapped medicinal plants, that can be translated into lead compounds for production of new drugs, abound in the continent.

Despite the rewarding results and a number of lives saved by many constituents of natural biodiversity, including plants and microbes, he said observations and innovative insights into new drugs most times are still lost due to lack of funding, science policy, incentives or technical expertise to advance them further into actual products for clinical uses.

The expert said relevant plant-based chemical substances could only be transformed into translational medicines, when innovative or translational research is allowed to thrive, and extensive and rigorous clinical trials are done to establish the usefulness and therapeutic efficacy of these plant-based chemicals in patients.

While research activities into natural products in Nigerians universities have been very promising and very comparable to research activities abroad due to collaboration with other researchers outside the nation, he said bridging the gap between the discoveries achieved at the “bench” and the interventions and therapies at the “bedside” remain a challenge.

Professor Farombi said: “Fundamental to the translation of scientific discoveries to clinical impart is the collaboration and integration of basic scientists with clinicians, as well as the integration of academia, health care, and industry. Herein lies the problem.”

He stated that translational medicine is actually the future of molecular medicine, urging for its increased funding to ensure that scientific discoveries are translated into clinical applications.

The don said in addition to creating optimal research and training environments, interest in innovative research should be sparked in the research community to ensure more basic investigators pursue translational science.

The expert listed relevant plant-based phytochemicals transformed to translational medicine as including quinine from cinchona bark for treatment of malaria, and eserine from Calabar bean for treatment of glaucoma.

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