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Hlupheka Chabalala Knowledge Management on IKS` National Office on Indigenous Knowledge Systems Department of Science and Technology Building 53a, Scientia, Meiring Naude Road Brummeria, 0184, Republic of South Africa
African Traditional Medicines: The Role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Bioprospecting and Product Development in South Africa
Hlupheka Chabalala, National IKS Office: National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa Tel: +27 12 843 6552, Fax: +27 86 681 0096, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction The establishment of the “Health for All” initiative recognised the role of traditional medicines in addressing health challenges in the world. Unknowingly, those who coined this concept were sensitive to the fact traditional or indigenous knowledge has a role to play in health and healing. The focus on allopathic medicine and its healing modalities resulted in the exclusion of indigenous knowledge systems [IKS], its technologies and role in disease prevention and management. Of most importance is that the World Health Organisation [WHO] declared 2001 to 2011 the decade of traditional medicines. With the rise of IKS, recognition of natural or herbal products is regaining their original position within the world health system. South African Biodiversity and Traditional Medicines Africa is endowed with the fauna and flora and the bio-economic and social benefits of this natural wealth has not been fully realised. South Africa has over 24 000 indigenous plants, representing 10% of all higher plants in the world. It is estimated that at least 80% of all South Africans consult between 200 000 and 300 000 African Traditional Healers prior to visiting allopathic establishments. It is therefore clear that the traditional medicines market in South Africa is promising as it can be translated into a multi-billion industry. All over the African region, the use of ATM is on the rise, especially given high prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB, Cancer, Diabetes and hypertension. This appreciation of African Traditional Medicines [ATM] is a course for concern over the safety, quality and efficacy of these remedies, mainly from the allopathic sector. The South African government developed and approved legislative tools to regulate both Traditional Health Practitioners [THPs] and Traditional Medicines. The aim is to fully and officially integrate traditional healing into the National Health System On the other hand cabinet approved the IKS Policy in 2004 was followed by the establishment of the National IKS Office [NIKSO] in 2006. The mandate of the Office is to coordinate all IKS-related issues, with a special focus on science, technology and innovation [STI]. The mandate of the NIKSO is to interface IKS with other knowledge
systems, while protecting, recognizing, promoting, and developing IKS. The NIKSO has three Directorates: Advocacy and Policy Development, Knowledge Development and Knowledge Management. The Knowledge Development Unit of the NIKSO is responsible for managing IKS research and development, establishment of IKS laboratories, establishment of IKS research chairs; and implementation of IKS innovation, bioprospecting and product development platform. These flagships involve extensive and cutting edge research on African Traditional medicines and other herbal remedies. Key partners are the Centres for Scientific and Industrial Research, Medical Research Council, Agricultural Research Council, Universities of KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Limpopo, North West and Venda. Key stakeholders are IKS Holders and Practitioners, and their organisations from the South Africa’s nine provinces. The Role of IKS in Bioprospecting and Product Development The significance of IKS to local communities and its application to modern life cannot be underestimated. IK constitutes much of the world’s medicinal knowledge, and indigenous communities rely on this knowledge for their survival, daily life, healing and nutrition needs. This relationship is closely intertwined with indigenous research and development efforts. Moreover, Innovation, bioprospecting and product development are also part of IKS that can be classified as primary research. Bioprospecting therefore is defined as any research on, or development of or application of, indigenous biological resources not only for commercial or industrial exploitation, but for sustainability of any community. IK Holders/Practitioners view this as a systematic search, collection or gathering of resources or making extractions from such resources for the purpose of such research, development or application. researchers It is also critical to realise that IK Holders/Practitioners are credible that inherited this knowledge for application, development or
modification of any traditional uses. Bioprospecting requires the knowledge and skills of local communities. It is common knowledge that valuable discoveries are made easier with the help of indigenous communities. The role of IK Holders/Practitioners therefore includes specific knowledge of biodiversity, primary research on biodiversity and its local use and development of products using natural resources. It is against this background that IK Holders/Practitioners are recognised as the custodians of IK in South Africa and are
main role-players in innovation and service delivery. Their role is well recognised in commercialisation (often small scale) and marketing of their products, hence they must be given the privilege of ownership and benefit sharing. African Traditional Medicines Development South African indigenous communities have been practicing bioprospecting and product development for millennia. They also have a concern that medicinal herbs and plants are under the threat of extinction as a result of growth-exploitation, environment-unfriendly harvesting techniques, and loss of growth habitats and unmonitored trade. As a result, access is now legally to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, by providing for the fair and equitable benefit sharing. It also compels bio-prospectors to enter into a benefit-sharing agreement with all providers of resources and knowledge, and also to obtain their prior informed consent before proceeding. These initiatives facilitate smooth implementation of ATM research and development strategies. South African IK researchers are now using ancient protocols as revealed by THPs to develop ATM into volarised phytotherapy and phytomedicines or new drug discoveries. These processes are interactive and involving discrete stages, which begin with indigenous knowledge systems, preparing extracts from biodiversity samples, biological assaying to test for efficacy followed by identification of isolation and identification of the active ingredients or in the case of herbal products, preparation of suitable botanical dosage forms. against the biological targets. ATM Research Initiatives The DST in collaboration with the Medical Research Council established the IKS Lead Programme, an IKS Laboratory focusing on clinical research on ATM. Priority health conditions that the laboratory is researching on include HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, Diabetes, Cancer and Hypertension. On the other hand, the NIKSO awarded the University of KwaZulu-Natal [UKNZ] a Research Chair in Traditional Medicines. The UKZN is involved in clinical trials on the role of Sutherlandia species in HIV/AIDS management. The Biosciences Unit of the Center of scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR] ia major instrument that the NIKSO finances to facilitate bioprospecting activities. IKS and Reverse Pharmacology
Often novel compounds and uses
can lead new targets followed by physical screening of large libraries of chemicals
Countries investing in research and development of pharmaceutical products are taking advantage of indigenous knowledge and traditional medicines. This concerns the role of naturaceuticals, cosmeceuticals and nutriceuticals as reservoirs of biochemical molecules for new drug discovery. It is estimated that approximately 80% of these products are plant based and their sales exceeded US$ 65 billion in 2003, and continue to rise. Experts have indicated that the traditional processes of successfully developing a drug a take up to 20 years, and may cost US$ 900 million per drug. On average, pharmaceutical industries spend over US$45 billion dollars on research and development of new drugs. With this amount, only 20-25 drugs may be discovered, but only have the potential to recover US$ 5 billion of the total expenditure per drug. It is therefore clear that South Africa cannot afford the costs and time needed given its current and annual research and development budget. This therefore calls for new scientific and systematic methods that are less complex, focused, predictive and less capital intensive. New methods should be sensitive to the ancient wisdom, at the same time complement or be complemented by conventional systems of product development. The newly discovered method is ‘Reverse Pharmacology’ [RP]. South African THPs and scientist use this methodology or protocol to ad value on ATM. The RP process seeks to scientifically validate medicinal extracts through vigorous science It works mechanisms that take a reverse route for clinical safety and efficacy.
backwards for pre-clinical studies and mechanisms of action including structurefunction relationship. Conventional drug discovery processes focus on moving drugs from test tube to animals to men. In the contrary, RP studies drugs using technology through a total shift of paradigms, where the effects of the drug or natural product in humans are know or documented. men [Figure 1]. This process requires teamwork by multi-system and multidisciplinary role-players. The RP process will serve as a powerful research tool for the discovery and rediscovery of drugs and safe natural products. South Africa considers this process in its plans to establishing and Institute of ATM and a Pharmaceutical Industry. This alternative path of research and development based on innovation and product development for commercialisation combines the wisdom of traditional knowledge, including traditional medicines, modern medicine techniques and modern science as well. It should also be realised that a sophisticated yet enabling environment RP therefore approaches research and development in that it works from plant to men to animals [if necessary], and back to
including a world-class regulatory system to fully actualise the advantages of reverse pharmacology should be well incorporated in the whole innovation cycle [Figure 2].
Clinical Trial IV
Mechanisms of Action
Clinical Trials IIII
Phytomedicines to Market
Phytotherapy to Market
Figure 1: Reverse Pharmacology Process
Conclusion and Recommendations It is therefore envisage that coordinated efforts of science councils, academic institution and knowledge holders contributed the quality of life of all South Africans and the African region at large. The expected outcome and long term impact for the BPDP in collaboration with African Diaspora are as follows:
o Mainstream IKS research capacity on ATM for socio-economic development in
o Improve the innovation and entrepreneurship for commercialisation, job
creation and poverty alleviation o Support local communities for improved sustainable livelihoods and economic growth and, skills and human capital development through technology transfer
o Protect and promote local product, including creation of intellectual property
portfolios based on indigenous knowledge, sensitive to benefit sharing models o Promote of IK research and development for value addition to ATM
The realisation of this strategy can only be achieved through concerted effort, adequate funding, skills and expertise by different role players including Africans in the Diaspora.
Product Development Model
Understanding Customer Needs [Market Research]
Access and Benefit Sharing Agreements
Idea Generation [Priority Setting] Monitoring and Evaluation Figure 2: Suggested Readers Technology, South Africa
Product Concept Prototype Development
Product Maintenance and Extension
Proposed generic product development model
1. Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy, 2004, Department of Science and 2. World Health Organisation, Guidelines for registration of Traditional Medicines in 3.
4. the WHO African Region Traditional Medicines, WHO AFRO, Zimbabwe National Reference Centre for Africa on African Traditional Medicines: A South African Model, 2004. Department of Health, South Africa
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