Discovering Africa’s drug potential
June 30, 2010 Editor 0
How can modern drug discovery methods enhance the value of African traditional medicines, asks South African drug expertKelly Chibale.
Africa’s biodiversity has the potential to be a major resource for developing pharmaceuticals to treat endemic diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. It is already the source of a wealth of traditional medicines used by at least 80 per cent of people on the continent.
But unfortunately, much of Africa’s biodiversity remains unexploited for health and economic benefits. Decades of research into African traditional medicines by Africans have yet to translate into modern pharmaceutical products.
There are several reasons for this lack of progress. Drug discovery and development efforts are fragmented across the continent. African researchers, in addition to lacking the finance and infrastructure to tackle the disease burden, are also challenged by a limited skills base and poor access to the technological platforms needed for drug research.
The result is that the chemistry of traditional medicines is rarely sampled in modern drug discovery efforts.
A springboard for action
Such a biomedical resource would provide a much-needed tool for attracting investment in the scientific expertise needed for the next steps of screening, medicinal chemistry and preclinical pharmacology that are vital to creating commercial pharmaceutical products.
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