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News From MO: 2000

Natural Products Research

The Garden was awarded a third contract in 1996 to collect plant samples in tropical Africa and Madagascar for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for screening in their drug discovery program. Under the current contract managed by James S. Miller [webpage], collecting has taken place in Madagascar in conjunction with collaborators from the Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza and the Centre National d'Application des Recherches Pharmaceutiques in Madagascar. Richard Randrianaivo is responsible for collecting plants for NCI in Madagascar. Adam Bradley [webpage] maintains the NCI database and processes the collections. Gordon McPherson [webpage] identifies NCI specimens.

In 1993 the Garden began collaborating with Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Bedrijf Geneesmiddelen Voorziening Suriname (BGVS), Conservation International-Suriname, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, on a project designed to stimulate biodiversity conservation in Suriname by demonstrating the value of biodiversity to the country and its people. The project is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and USAID. The Garden's primary role in the project has been to provide BVGS with samples of plant species collected from numerous localities. Extracts made from the samples by BVGS are then forwarded to Bristol-Myers and Virginia Polytechnic for screening for potential medicinal agents. Miller coordinates the Garden's portion of the project. In 1998 the project's activities expanded to include Madagascar, in collaboration with the Centre National d'Applications et des Recherches Pharmaceutiques (CNARP) and the Centre National de la Recherche Appliquée au Développement Rural (TEF). Another partner, Dow Agrosciences, Inc., joined the group to evaluate plants for potential agricultural applications. Chris Birkinshaw [webpage] is coordinating project activities in Madagascar. In addition to providing samples for pharmaceutical and agricultural evaluation, the project will generate annotated checklists of the Zahamena and Ankarafantsika reserves.

This year the Garden began participating in a new project led by the University of Missouri-Columbia and funded by the National Institutes of Health. Garden botanists will identify plant species used as active ingredients in dietary supplements, while researchers from the university will isolate active chemicals, document their efficacy, and study how these compounds act in the human body. The Garden will produce a catalog that will help manufacturers of dietary supplements properly identify the plants that are used to make their products. The protocols developed for identifying plants used as ingredients in herbal supplements will ensure that desirable species are not confused with look-alikes or contaminated with other species. Dennis Lubahn (University of Missouri, Columbia) is the Principal Investigator for the project, and Jim Miller coordinates the Garden's participation. Wendy Applequist [webpage] will work on developing standards for identifying plants used in supplements, with the assistance of Heidi Schmidt [webpage].

The Garden has entered into a partnership with Sequoia Sciences to provide chemical discovery programs with natural product compound libraries. Garden botanists collect and identify plant specimens for Sequoia, which screens and processes them for distribution to other research programs and organizations. John Stone [webpage] and Gretchen Walters [webpage] will collect and process specimens for delivery to Sequoia.

Jan Salick [webpage], who recently joined the research staff as Curator of Ethnobotany, started work in tropical China collecting plants of economic importance for the Food Library at the Garden. As past President of the Society for Economic Botany, she works with AIBS and NSF to strengthen funding for ethnobotany as a discipline. Salick comes to us with research experience among indigenous peoples and useful plants around the world in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and South Africa. Collaborating with various Flora projects, she will continue her work on plant/people interactions within the Applied Research Department at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The Applied Research Department maintains a web site at http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/applied_research/welcome.html.

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