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Southern African Biochemistry & Informatics for Natural Products Network
Due to the great biodiversity of southern Africa, increased capacity in natural products research has the potential to strengthen food security, public health, and value-added exports. SABINA trains both PhD and MSc scientists through research on the biochemistry and chemistry of natural products, including bioinformatics as an essential tool for data management and the elucidation of structure and function. Research focuses on increasing the understanding of useful plants and fungi (such as mushrooms, seaweeds, and tea crops) through the study of screening assays, biosynthetic pathways, gene expression, modes of action, synthetic production and genetic diversity.
SABINA Secretariat with the node members at UNAM from left to right (back row): Mrs. Jessika Naidoo, Dr. Renate Hans, Dr. Ronnie Bock, Ms. Celine Mukakalisa, Ms. Moola Nyambe, Dr. Petrina Kapewangolo; (front row): Prof. Martha Kandawa-Schulz, Ms. Sunette Walter and Ms. Hatago Stuurmann. Bottom right: Dr. John Becker.
The SABINA Secretariat (Academic Director Dr. John Becker and Project Manager Mrs. Jessika Naidoo) recently embarked on a node visit to University of Namibia (UNAM). The UNAM node has grown considerably and the node visit presented the Secretariat with the opportunity to meet all SABINA members at UNAM as well as other researchers involved in natural products research. It was great to see SABINA graduates (Dr. Petrina Kapewangolo and Ms. Moola Nyambe) thriving at their home institution.
The first day of the visit was dedicated to the current SABINA students at UNAM. The Secretariat held individual meetings with the students to hear more about their progress and the results of their projects.
The morning of day two consisted of laboratory tours. Dr. Bock and Ms. Mukakalisa showed the SABINA Secretariat around the laboratories and available infrastructure at UNAM. A general discussion was then held with all SABINA staff members at UNAM.
Similar visits are planned for other nodes during the course of the year.
Delegates that attended the SABINA stakeholder meeting, from left to right (front row): Prof. Gail Hughes, Prof. Zodwa Dlamini, Prof. Charles de Koning, Dr. Gerda Fouche, Mrs. Jessika Naidoo, Prof. Sylvester Lyantagaye; (back row): Prof. Oleg Reva, Dr. Ereck Chakauya, Dr. John Becker, Prof. Ian Dubery, Dr. Paul Steenkamp, Dr. Heino Heyman, Prof. Vinesh Maharaj, Dr. Stephen Amoo and Dr. Farhahna Allie.
The SABINA stakeholder workshop for South African natural product researchers was held on the 27th of March 2015 at the Irene Country Lodge. Seventeen delegates (including the SABINA Secretariat) from nine institutions in South Africa were in attendance. SABINA stalwarts Prof. Charles de Koning (Wits), Prof. Oleg Reva (UP), Prof. Vinesh Maharaj (UP) and Prof. Sylvester Lyantagaye (UDSM) were also in attendance.
In December 2014, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of South Africa, through the International Cooperation and Resources Programme, awarded the SABINA network R 1.98 million to increase the participation of South African researchers in the SABINA activities.
The aim of the workshop was thus to create a greater awareness of the SABINA network and allow attendees to discuss the opportunities presented by the DST grant and how these could be achieved.
The meeting was received positively by all attendees. Feedback received by the Secretariat both during and after the meeting has indicated that South African natural product researchers are extremely interested in participating in SABINA activities and becoming active members of the network. The Secretariat is currently consulting the network partners to establish guidelines for the incorporation of these members into the network.
Robert Christopher (PhD student at the University of Dar es Salaam, pictured above) is currently on a six-month internship at Ca' Foscari University of Venice in Italy. He was awarded the internship earlier this year by the Organization for the Prohibitions of Chemical Weapons.
Robert is working on the synthesis of carbonate mustard analogues and their chemical properties, under the supervision of Professor Pietro Tundo. The research undertaken during the internship will contribute to his PhD thesis.
Robert will resume his PhD project at UDSM upon his return in September 2015.