Prof Kelly Chibale and postdoctoral fellow Dr Denise Saravanakumar examine plant material that could provide leads for new antimalarial drugs
UCT's Drug Discovery Unit is breaking new ground in the using of plants to find novel compounds for antimalarial, and other drugs.
Leading the study is Professor Kelly Chibale of UCT's Department of Chemistry and the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. With a R3.6-million research grant from Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), Chibale is building on work conducted by Merck and Company from 1942 to 1947 which involved the screening of more than 600 plants for phytochemicals with similar or greater efficacy than quinine as a treatment for malaria. About 100 plants were singled out for their potential antimalarial properties in a 1947 publication. After the war and the advent of synthetic antimalarials, this data was consigned to "scientific limbo" for over 60 years before Kelly and colleagues took it on.
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