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 recently received a co-funding grant from the Department of Science and Technology of South Africa to increase South African researchers' participation in the network. In addition, the grant will also fund exchange visits of South African researchers and students to SABINA nodes for networking and training.
SABINA PhD fellow Jimmy Sumani won two awards. He was the recipient of a poster prize at the SACI-ACS Bi-National Organic Chemistry Conference. He also won the the Penny Huddle Award for demonstrating and tutoring to 2nd and 3rd year students at Wits in 2014. 
SABINA sponsored Ms. Jean Dam, Mr. Jimmy Sumani and Mr. Kennedy Ngwira (PhD fellows) to attend the SACI-ACS Bi-National Organic Chemistry Conference held in Stellenbosch, South Africa from the 30th November to 5th December 2014. 
Prof. de Koning launched (as Chair) the South African Chapter of the American Chemical Society at the SACI-ACS Bi-National Organic Chemistry Conference. 
SABINA fellows (Aneth David, Cyprian Mpinda and Liberata Mwita) attended an NGS data analysis course at the University of Pretoria from 3-7 November 2014 (see photograph above). Presented by SABINA supervisor, Prof. Oleg Reva, the hands-on course covered an introduction to current methods and approaches of comparative genomics to address many scientific and practical questions and problems. Additional topics covered included: application of NGS technologies and data mining in large datasets of DNA reads: quality control, assembly and mapping against a reference. Identification of polymorphic sites was also covered.
SABINA MSc student Hatago Stuurmann recently completed a two-week research visit to the CSIR, under the supervision Dr. Dalu Mancama. Hatago, from the University of Namibia, is supervised by Dr. Mumbengegwi, Dr. Kandawa-Schulz and Dr. Mancama. The research visit entailed laboratory work on aspects of Ms. Stuurmann’s MSc project, which involved the screening of extracts obtained from plants used traditionally to treat cancer. Cell line culturing and maintenance were carried out during this visit. Cell viability and cytotoxicity assays were also conducted to investigate the potential anti-cancer properties of the plant extracts. The data obtained will contribute to the scientific validation for the use of these plants in traditional settings. When asked to comment on her visit, Ms Stuurmann said, "The visit was very informative; it exposed me to various areas working on cell lines. I learned a lot about the different types of cell lines and the dimensions in which they exist. I also gained knowledge on cell line passaging, cell viability and cytotoxicity assays, all thanks to my sponsors SABINA."
SABINA Leaders
Project Manager
Mrs. Jessika Naidoo
Support Scientist, African Centre for Gene Technologies, South Africa
Prof. Charles de Koning, Department of Chemistry
Dr. Dashnie Naidoo, Business Area Leader
Prof. Martha Kandawa-Schulz, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Science
Dr. Mourice Monjerezi, Department of Chemistry
Dr. Quintino Mgani, Department of Chemistry