Life Sciences Lecturer Presents Research in Germany
Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry in the School of Life Sciences on the Westville campus, Dr Shahidul Islam, presented his research at the 8th Berlin Conference on Intellectual Property (IP) in Life Science: Natural Products in Germany.
Islam was invited to the Conference, held at the South African Embassy in Berlin, by New York-based consultant, William Avery Hudson.
The topic of his presentation was: “Natural Products Research: African Medicinal Plants with Anti-Diabetic Potential”. The presentation was based on his extensive research on the potential of traditional African plants to aid in the development of medicines to treat diabetes, an increasingly prevalent health threat not only in Africa but globally.
The main objective of the Conference was to discuss issues faced by research into the use of such plants with regards to the obtaining of Intellectual Property (IP) licences for the compounds discovered, since access to natural products is contested and regulated by the Nagoya Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity, This will have implications for the patenting of compounds derived from such natural products, which have huge potential for contributing to, among other things, the treatment of serious disease epidemics through the development of new drugs.
The BIOCOM Conference focused on addressing the latest regulations and illustrated their practical use in work such as Islam’s.
‘There is a need for international regulations in this area of research,’ explained Islam, ‘as each country is currently regulated by its own laws, which vary across the world.’
As international regulations begin to change, however, it will be important for researchers such as Islam to understand the implications for their work.
Islam said he found the Conference helpful in its overview of IP and how it was being applied, adding that it offered the opportunity for countries to find assistance in applying regulations in their own regions. The Conference also touched on taking the research being done on medicinal plants from its first basic steps to completion where compounds are patented.
Islam himself has a patent pending on a new compound he has discovered during the course of his work and on which he has collaborated with staff in the Discipline of Chemistry at UKZN.
His presentation in Berlin was well received with other presenters and participants asking him questions about his work. The presentation also opened up doors for the prospect of taking promising plant materials overseas for further research as well as initiating bilateral collaborative research, a move valued by the National Research Foundation (NRF), which funded his travel to the Conference.
Diabetes mellitus is becoming an increasing problem worldwide. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) suggests that the disease affects more than 366 million people globally currently, and that this number is likely to increase to around 552 million or even more by the year 2030.
In southern Africa, South Africa has the largest number of sufferers, with two million diabetics countrywide. This makes the work of Islam and others in the search for new compounds increasingly important and the regulations affecting this work equally so. Islam hopes to contribute to the development of affordable, accessible treatments for diabetes globally.
Islam also spoke about the importance of taking research on the continent of Africa from the intermediate phases to the next level of patenting compounds.
His research has been widely recognised, evidenced by his rating by the NRF as a committed young researcher and the numerous grants he has been awarded from local and international organisations.
He is also a reviewer of more than 20 international peer-reviewed journals in his field of expertise and works as a member of the Editorial Board of international journals including Frontiers in Experimental Pharmacology and Drug Discovery (Switzerland), World Journal of Diabetes (China), Journal of Biochemical and Pharmacological Research (USA), Journal of Internal and Translational Medicine (Netherlands), and Recent Patents in Food, Nutrition and Agriculture (UAE). He also served as a Lead Guest Editor of the Journal of Diabetes Research (USA).