JNU to establish new centre for research in natural products

A National Centre for screening of Natural Products for Parasitic Diseases will soon start working at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The main objective of the centre is to screen natural products to identify potential candidates for further optimisation and preclinical and clinical development as new drugs against parasitic diseases.

“We propose to use a multi-directional, multidisciplinary drug discovery approach for parasitic diseases such as leishmaniasis, amoebiasis and malaria. The centre will bring under one roof all parasitologists working in JNU to discover new lead molecules against tropical parasitic diseases that are the second leading cause of deaths globally,” said Prof Rentala Madhubala, principal investigator of the project, while speaking with India Science Wire.

The centre is being funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under its Technology Development and Transfer (TDT) Division. The centre will receive a grant of Rs 5 crore over three years.

The new centres will conduct cell-based phenotypic screening wherein natural product compound libraries will be screened against three protozoan parasites most relevant to human disease – Leishmania donovaniPlasmodium falciparum and Entamoeba histolytica – to identify compounds with desirable physicochemical properties.

The other objective is to conduct target-based screening.  The available natural products compound libraries will be screened through a battery of validated enzymes targets. And there will be a preclinical evaluation of leads for products identified through phenotypic and targets-based screening. “Lead compounds will be tested for suppressive, curative and prophylactic actions,” said Dr. Madhubala.

The centre will build alliance with academia and pharmaceutical industries to integrate research, development and commercialisation of potentially useful natural products. The natural products libraries will be obtained from CSIR-IICT, Hyderabad in collaboration with Dr. Debendra Mohapatra.  The centre will be collaborating with Pune-based Emcure Pharmaceuticals for developing and commercialising lead compounds.

In addition to JNU, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh; National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Guwahati; and Khalsa College, Mumbai, have been selected according to Dr Krishna Kanth Pulicherla, Scientist at DST.  The program is designed to harness knowledge of traditional medicinal system and biodiversity of the country for the advantage of the drug industry.

Jyoti Singh is a contributor at India Science Wire.

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