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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

UFS awards its innovative thinkers
2009-11-18

Here are, from the left: Prof. Van Wyk with first-prize winners Precious Setlaba and Themba Motsoeneng and Prof. Muriel Meiring, the students’ promoter.
Photo: Stephen Collett


The University of the Free State (UFS) recently announced the winners of the Innovation Fund Competition. This national competition, which is organised by the Department of Science and Technology aims to promote entrepreneurship through the commercialisation of the innovative ideas of young entrepreneurs.

Every participating educational institution first has an in-house competition in which a total prize money of R100 000 is at stake. At the UFS 14 business plans from students were received and evaluated by six external adjudicators. The three winners now have to take part in Phase II of the competition where 60 competitors from 20 universities will compete. The winners of the National Competition will receive prizes of up to R300 000. This money must be used for the development of the innovative idea with which the prize was won.

The first prize in the UFS’s Innovation Fund Competition of R50 000 was won by Themba Motsoeneng and Precious Setlaba from the Department of Haematology for the development of low-cost diagnostic assays for thrombotic diseases and bleeding disorders with the aim of supplying these test assays at a much lower cost to pathology laboratories all over the country. “This exciting idea appealed to many of the judges, especially because it can contribute to low cost health care in the country,” says Prof. Gerrit van Wyk, organiser of the Innovation Fund Competition at the UFS. The second prize of R30 000 was won by Charl Jaftha, MSc student in Physics. He has developed a low-cost hearing aid the size of a cigarette box. It contains a microphone and electronics to amplify the sound. The third prize of R20 000 was won by Adriaan Taylor and Jaco Brink, both MBA students. They designed a two-in-one lawnmower that would enable the average gardener with a bulky garden to shred the garden refuse and recycle it through composting or disposal through the normal disposal system. “One judge called this a novel use of existing technology,” says Prof. Van Wyk.
 

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