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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.
University of Pretoria PhD student Liberata Mwita (pictured above) recently made a research visit to the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU):
I was lucky to get an opportunity to visit Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden for two months (May and June 2015). I was working at the Department of Plant Biology under the supervision of Prof. Johan Meijer. It was a great opportunity to learn and use new techniques. I did several experiments using the available advanced technology and high-tech equipment that we do not currently have at the University of Pretoria. The generosity and hospitality of the Swedish people was remarkable.I was also fortunate to attend and present at a talk at the BIOTECHNO2015 conference in Rome, Italy from 24 to 29 May 2015. The conference consisted of researchers from multiple disciplines including bioinformatics, biocomputational systems, and biotechnology. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about what other researchers from the same field are doing in different parts of the world. My talk was titled "Gene Expression Profile of a Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacterium Bacillus atrophaeus UCMB-5137 in Response to Maize Root Exudate Stimulation."Both the research visit and the conference were great opportunities for me to learn from and interact with other scientists.
The SABINA Secretariat (Academic Director Dr. John Becker and Project Manager Mrs. Jessika Naidoo) conducted a node visit at UNIMA Chancellor College (Zomba, Malawi) from 17-19 June 2015. The aim of the visit was to engage with SABINA members at UNIMA and other researchers conducting natural products research. The Secretariat engaged with many natural products researchers and postgraduate students from various departments at Chancellor College. The visit also included a tour of the biological sciences and chemistry laboratories led by Drs. Monjerezi, Biswick, and Changadeya. Pictured on the right (above) is SABINA MSc student Lucia Kabanga, who is based at UNIMA.
The Secretariat visited Wits on the 14 July 2015. Prof. de Koning took the Secretariat on an informative tour of the laboratories, the NMR, and MS facilities at Wits. SABINA fellows Ms. Jean Dam, Mr. Kennedy Ngwira, and Mr. Jimmy Sumani were busy at work in the laboratories, when the Secretariat arrived. Jean and Kennedy also did a demonstration of the bench top mass spectrometer.
These node visits were informative and productive. The Secretariat will use the information collected to generate a node fact sheet for UNIMA and Wits. Similar visits are planned for the CSIR, UDSM, UJ and UP in the coming months.