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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

Prestige Scholar hosts Prof John Helliwell of Manchester University
2015-12-08

From left is Prof John R. Helliwell (School of Chemistry, University of Manchester), Dr Madeleine Helliwell (School of Chemistry, University of Manchester), Prof Andre Roodt (Department of Chemistry, University of the Free State) and Dr Alice Brink (Department of Chemistry, University of the Free State).
Photo: Steven Collett

At the invitation of Dr Alice Brink of the Department of Chemistry, Prof John Helliwell, the 2015 Max Perutz Prize winner, and his wife, Dr Madeleine Helliwell, visited the University of the Free State (UFS).
The Helliwells, both chemists of note, took part in a series of lectures and exchanges on the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses.
This visit from 9-19 November 2015 was the consequence of Dr Brink’s participation in the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) initiative to encourage the broadening of the international footprint of the next generation of scholars in the academy.

Two year collaboration

Dr Brink and Prof Helliwell from Manchester University have a standing collaboration going back two years. Dr Brink, an NRF Thuthuka grant holder and a member of the PSP since 2013, has spent almost eight months in Manchester, collaborating with Prof Helliwell on her study of the successful interaction of rhenium tricarbonyl complexes with proteins determined via protein crystallography.
Their collaboration resulted from the close association of Prof Helliwell and Prof Andre Roodt from the UFS Department of Chemistry, both former presidents of the European Crystallographic Association.

Sharing academic expertise

Prof Helliwell, the 2014 American Crystallographic Association Patterson Award winner for his “pioneering contributions to the global development of the instrumentation, methods and applications of synchrotron radiation in macromolecular crystallography”, gave three lectures in the Department of Chemistry, two on the Boemfontein Campus, and the other on the Qwaqwa Campus on 13 November 2015.

Dr Helliwell, former co-editor of the Acta Crystallographica Section C: Crystal Structure Communications journal, consulted with postgraduate students from the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

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