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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

New Genetics building on Bloemfontein Campus spirals into new frontiers
2015-09-11

On Thursday 3 September 2015, the Department of Genetics hosted the official opening of its new offices on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS).

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, Prof Neil Heideman, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Prof Paul Grobler, Head of the Department of Genetics cut the ribbon, symbolising the opening of this building with its state-of-the-art facilities.

The new genetics building boasts a new administration block with a reception area, seven offices, a small committee room, and a seminar room for 50 people. Furthermore, the undergraduate laboratory block provides a laboratory for 150 students. The research block has facilities for 30 researchers.

This building also hosts a chemical waste sorting and storage facility. This is a first for the university.

Several sites were investigated for the new building, but due to its size and envisaged second phase, a “green fields” site was found on the western side of the campus. The main entrance caters for visitors from the north, students on foot, and those using the parking area in front of the library. The secondary south entrance is for those who use the dedicated parking area south of the building. The link between these two entrances is the spine of the building, a helix with services/buildings spaced on either side. The helix will be extended in the second phase to keep the circulation and linkage of buildings as simple as possible.

In his opening speech, Prof Grobler gave a breakdown of the history of the Department of Genetics. Today, this department, which opened its doors at the UFS in 1960, is proud of its 131 students and 46 honours students.

According to Major-General Edward Ngokha, Head of the Forensic Science Laboratory, students who graduate from the UFS in the field of genetics make excellent employees. The Forensic Science Laboratory has employed 25 honours students since the BSc Honours degree in Genetics was implemented in 2010.

“The UFS delivers education of high quality and high standards. Thank you for your contribution toward fighting crime by delivering well-prepared, committed employees,” said Major-General Ngokha.

The department presents programmes on population conservation genetics, plant molecular genetics, cytogenetics, forensic genetics, forensic science, human genetics, and behavioural genetics.

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