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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 launches expansions to Biotechnology Building
2015-11-04

     

Biotechnology Building
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

To support the strategic focus of the University of the Free State (UFS) on teaching and learning in the field of Biotechnology, the Department of Microbial, Biochemical, and Food Biotechnology introduced upgrades and additions to the value of R23 million to the existing Biotechnology Building on its Bloemfontein Campus. The funding was provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training.

The new section, together with renovations to the existing part of the Biotechnology Building, was opened on Thursday 29 October 2015.

The Department, consisting of three disciplines - Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Food Biotechnology - is extremely diverse. Two of the three disciplines – Microbiology and Biochemistry – are housed in the Biotechnology Building.

Additions and renovations to the Biotechnology Building include:
-    Four new research laboratories
-    Nine revamped research laboratories

      

At the launch of the Biotechnology Building were,
from the left: Nico Janse van Rensburg,
Senior Director: University Estates;
Maureen Khati, University Estates,
Prof Nicky Morgan, Vice Rector: Operations
and Ria Deysel, Director: Facilities Management.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

The work to the building will have dramatic effects on the quality, as well as the quantity, of postgraduate students. Given the national priority to deliver students, this is very important, particularly at the doctorate level.

Prof Koos Albertyn from the Department said these were the first renovations and expansions done to the building since 1 January 1990. “We welcome the extra space. Forty-six more postgraduate students can now be accommodated in the department,” he said.

Construction took place on the south-western corner of the existing building. Further developments to the building include:
-    Six new offices
-    A lecture hall for 70 students
-    Laboratories that can accommodate 56 postgraduate students

Prof Martie Smit, Academic Head of the Department, said: “This new and refurbished facility enables us to give our best. As academics, we are committed to doing our part in delivering high-quality education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels to students envisaging a future in biotechnology.”

The James Charles du Preez Seminar Room was also opened at the event. The seminar room is dedicated to Prof Du Preez – who was Head of the Department from October 2002 until the end of 2014. He played a major role in raising funds for upgrading the Biotechnology Building, including the addition of a new wing.



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