India Looks for ‘Natural’ Boost in Drug Discovery, Vaccines

KOCHI:
India’s biotechnology sector is all set for a booster dose as research work of scientists on natural products as the therapeutic agents for a host of diseases has emerged as a potential area in drug discovery and development of vaccines.
The poster presentation at the three-day 14th Asian Conference on Diarrhoeal Diseases and Nutrition (ASCODD), which concluded here on Wednesday, showcased different studies on nature as a source of chemical diversity.
A group of scientists and research scholars from Manipal University presented a poster on anti-microbial activity of young immature coconuts for combating some strains of Vibrio Cholerae, a bacterium that grows in brackish or saltwater and causes cholera.
“Repeated use of antibiotics makes organisms drug-resistant and it has become a major hurdle. Hence, we thought of opting for natural products. The crude extract of young immature coconut has showed antimicrobial activity,” said Dr Mamatha Ballal, Professor of Microbiology, Manipal University.
She also stressed that traditional medicines can become an effective substitute for antibiotics in the long run. “These products have been used as medicinal herbs since ages. Moreover, there is no threat of side effects or toxicity. Research on natural products for chemical therapy will be the next big happening in the healthcare sector,” Dr Mamatha told the conference held at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Kochi.
The conference concluded with a session, titled ‘What do we miss during decision-making on diarrhoeal and other diseases?’
Over 61 scientists from countries, including the UK, the US, Bangladesh, Germany, India, France and Sweden, attended the conference, which was organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram in association with International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr, b); Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad; the INCLEN Trust International (INCLEN INT) and the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Kolkata.
The theme of the conference was ’Saving lives: innovations and solutions for diarrhoeal diseases, enteric fever and malnutrition’, and it was majorly supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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