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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

Meet Dr Olihile Sebolai, Prestige Scholar
2013-07-15

 

Dr Olihile Sebolai
Photo: Sonia Small
15 July 2013


Dr Olihile Sebolai, lecturer in the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, was selected to the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) in 2011. Dr Sebolai recently returned from a six month research visit to the University of Birmingham at the invitation of Professor Robin May, Lister Reader and Chair of Infectious Diseases.

This enabled Dr Sebolai to acquire and develop necessary pathobiological skills pertinent to his work on the pathogenesis of Cryptococcus neoformans. “During my time in Birmingham, I benefitted from the experiences of three senior post-doctorates and a principal investigator, who were all working in (Prof May’s) laboratory,” says Dr Sebolai.

“By way of observation, I was greatly impressed by the level of collaboration between Prof May and his network, which enables him to move out of a silo and effortlessly create a global footprint."

The next phase of Dr Sebolai’s early career development takes him as Fulbright Scholar to the University of Missouri in Kansas City, in September 2013. Here Dr Sebolai will spend time in the laboratory of Alexander Idnurm. The purpose of this visit is to study virulence mechanisms in fungi, which are a low order of eukaryotic organisms, and to identify potential drug targets.

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