The ICBG team has leveraged capacity developed by ICBG activities over the previous seven years to successfully compete for PNG National Aids Council funding. The project will investigate whether commonly used PNG herbal medicines can antagonize anti-retroviral therapies dispensed to people living with HIV.
CTFS/SIGEO (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) to study forests of Papua New Guinea: October 20, 2008
Collaboration with landowners, the Smithsonian Institution, The Binatang Research Centre and many other stake holders has led to the establishment of a long-term rainforest study area in PNG. This is the site of many current ICBG projects.
PNG Students aren't afraid of snakes! Projects stemming from a University of Papua New Guinea and Australian Venom Research Unit collaboration have provided opportunities for ICBG supported students to participate in anti-venom development.
Big changes are in store for Papua New Guinea as the country looks forward to a doubling in its GDP by 2015. A national vision for development and a 20 year strategic development plan have recently been adopted. The University of Papua New Guinea is being called upon to align its mission with the new development plan, and to develop strategies for leading the country through this time of drastic change.
Three students from UPNG travelled to the US for extended training in chemistry and pharmacology in the research labs of Chris Ireland and Lou Barrows, College of Pharmacy, University of Utah. While in Utah, these students learned various laboratory techniques that allowed them to complete their Master's thesis work at UPNG.
Manah Dindi trained in the Ireland lab. Manah performed the bulk of the validation studies of the prefractionation protocol for plants. Through
bioassay-guided fractionation, she was the first to isolate the antimycobacterial agent exocarpic acid (Planta Medica (2009), 75, 1326-1330).
Her MSc thesis focused on the isolation of bioactive compounds from Papua New Guinea plants.
Manah now teaches in the Chemistry Department at UPNG.
Emma Powan worked with members of the Barrows lab where she learned to perform TB & HIV bioassays to follow the chemistry of plants and traditional medicines. These studies formed the framework of her Master's thesis, "In vitro inhibition of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by Evodia elleryana bark with minimal human T-cell cytotoxicity".
Emma taught at UPNG for two years, and currently works with the United Nations Development Program.
Jeffrey Noro received extensive training in chromatography techniques and interpretation of NMR data in the Ireland lab. This work resulted in the isolation and structure elucidation of tetrahydroxysqualene, a novel compound with anti-tuberculosis activity (Noro, et al.; J. Nat. Prod. (2008), 71, 1623-24).
Jeffrey has completed his Master's thesis, "Study of Papua New Guinea marine sponges for anti-TB agents: Isolation and structure elucidation", and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
Emma Powan, the first in her village to go on to graduate school, had her Master's Thesis in Pharmacology accepted by the University of Papua New Guinea School of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2007. Much of her work was supported by ICBG funding. In addition, she was able to conduct a year's worth of research at the University of Utah, where she obtained data critical for her research. She returned home to Kurti Village in Manus on National School Day to present appreciation gifts to the school funds for the surrounding local schools and to give an inspirational message to students and educators there. Ms. Powan taught for two years at UPNG as a lecturer in the Pharmacology discipline, and now works for UNDP in Port Moresby.
One of the Program Goals of the 2001 Papua New Guinea national health plan "Health Vision 2010, Policy Directions and Priorities" is "To improve the health of Papua New Guineans by providing easy access to safe and effective forms of traditional medicine and practices" (PNG National Health Plan 2001-2010). In March, 2007 the Papua New Guinea national government formally approved a National Policy on Traditional Medicine promoted by the Ministry of Health (National Policy on Traditional Medicine, 2007). One of the goals of the ICBG "Sustainable Use and Conservation of Biodiversity in Papua New Guinea," is to support these government initiatives in order to facilitate delivery of improved health care options to the people of Papua New Guinea.
One of the first traditional medicines selected for assessment and development by the Traditional Medicines Taskforce, headed by Dr. P. P. Rai, University of Papua New Guinea, is a topical analgesic and anti-inflammatory preparation manufactured by Ms. Minnie Bate, in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. Ms. Bate gained recognition in 2003 when she displayed her products at the Lae "PNG-Made" Trade Fair and won awards for Small Business Encouragement and Best New Product. Ms. Bate has been featured in many press articles including The National newspaper and Paradise In Flight Magazine in 2006.
Ms. Bate's topical analgesic preparation is a vegetable oil extract of fresh (or dried/stored lichen) which is used for superficial joint or muscle pain or inflammation. Under ICBG support, Dr. Rai and collaborators at the University of Utah undertook chemical and pharmacological analysis of this preparation. With assistance of Ms. Bate, Dr. Rai collected the species of lichen she uses. These were subsequently identified as Parmotrema saccatibolum and Pyxine cocoes with the help of Dr. Simone Louwhoff of Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Australia.
For the scientific analysis only Parmotrema saccatibolum was studied. Chemical analysis of the vegetable oil extract was too complicated to be informative; however, extraction of the lichen in hexane yielded a residue 95% of which were two orsellinic acid compounds, atranorin and chloroatranorin. Furthermore, spectrophotometric evidence suggested that these two molecules are present to significant extent in the vegetable oil product as well. The atranorin molecules were tested for the ability to inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX-1 and -2). Atranorin showed a dose dependent
inhibition of COX-1 with an IC50 of approximately ~45 μM. Atranorin also showed partial inhibition of COX-2 and chloroatranorin showed partial inhibition COX-1, but dose dependent relationships could not be defined due to higher concentrations of drugs required. Chloroatranorin did not exhibit any activity in the COX-2 assay. These
Minnie Bate in her lab, Alotau, PNG
data were published in a peer reviewed scientific journal (Fitoterapia, Bugni and co- workers, 2009).
The data gathered through the Utah - Papua New Guinea ICBG collaboration was consistent with the indicated use of Ms. Bate's preparation. This fact has been used to support her marketing and expand her product distribution which now includes select outlets in Japan. Furthermore, influenced by the ICBG findings, Ms. Bate has empirically adjusted the strength of her preparations to improve efficacy. The difficulty of working with the vegetable extract also prompted Ms. Bate to reformulate her products using more cosmetically attractive ingredients including coconut oil. All this has led to a wider market for the product and a real success story for this burgeoning cottage industry.