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Ancient plant knowledge used to develop medicinal compounds

Research & Development

KNOWLEDGE from the world’s oldest continuous culture will be used to develop medicinal compounds from plants found in the Australian Outback. 

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The Australian Bioactive Compounds Centre, jointly established by the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia, will apply Aboriginal knowledge of outback plants and their traditional medicinal uses.

This will complement the centre’s existing ecological strengths to help identify compounds with potential commercial application in medicine, veterinary science and agriculture.

Initial research will focus on compounds that inhibit insect attacks on plant crops; veterinary products that have antibiotic, anti-parasitic and anti-cancer properties; and, topical human anti-melanoma treatment.

Centre Co-Director Professor Philip Weinstein from the University of Adelaide said the centre’s expertise in arid zone plant biology and ecology, its experience in screening for bioactive compounds, capabilities in chemistry and understanding of existing gaps in the markets gave it a “unique advantage”.

The world’s most ancient living culture, Australia’s Indigenous people have a continuous history spanning more than 50,000 years.

Co-Director Associate Professor Bob Milne from the University of South Australia said the centre had established formal agreements with the traditional owners of the land and local communities over collection permissions and intellectual property.

“We hope to benefit from their understanding of plant cycles and local ecosystems as well as Indigenous knowledge of traditional uses of the plants,” he said.

The University of Adelaide has also launched the Centre for Conservation Science and Technology, which will focus on developing practical solutions that mitigate and manage the risks to the environment from human activity.

The centre will combine research strengths in biodiversity and biosecurity monitoring, conservation and restoration, and identifying illegal trade in wildlife and other biological products. Four key aims will be improved biosecurity; habitat restoration; reducing wildlife crime; and enhancing the success of conservation projects throughout Australia and globally.

Flinders UniversityUniversity of South AustraliaUniversity of Adelaiderated highly in the international higher education rankings.

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