GUWAHATI, Oct 7 - The Biotechnology Department of the Gauhati University (GU) has secured two patent rights on the products and processes of the formulations it has developed as mosquito repellents and larvicides. Two more patents are awaited on two other anti-malarial formulations. The products and processes developed by the GU department are the result of the studies it is carrying out on the medicinal plants of the NE region on the basis of ethno-traditional knowledge.
The Biotechnology department has devoted itself to controlling mosquitoes that are carriers of vector-borne diseases like malaria, filaria (elephantiasis) and dengue and it has developed some formulations which have acted as mosquito repellents for filaria and dengue and also as larvicides, said Prof MC Kalita, who has been heading teams of researchers since 1998 in this field.
On the basis of ethno-traditional knowledge, the GU Biotechnology teams have collected and screened over 50 plants that have such medicinal qualities between 1998 and 2009. Seven of those plants have been found to have been containing both repellent and larvicidal qualities, said Prof Kalita.
The first patent right was obtained on the method of extraction of essential oils from the Cymbopogon winterianus plant using the clevenger cleisen apparatus for protection against pests, while the second one is for a method of extraction of bioactive compounds from the Ipomea cornea plant using solvents for protection against pests, he said.
Since 2011, a project, in collaboration with the Regional Medical Research Centre (formerly Indian Council of Medical Research), Dibrugarh, has been under way on plant-based drug development against malarial parasites (Plasmodium falciparum, a major causative agent of cerebral malaria). The project is funded by the Union Department of Biotechnology.
The drug is at the formulation stage and it is expected to be developed by the end of this year.
An application has been submitted to the Patent Authority of India in 2014, seeking patent rights over this formulation. Work on the further characterisation of drug molecules of the other plants is also on, said Prof Kalita.
At present, research scholar Nilakshi Gohain is working with a team at the RMRC with Kabita Gogoi, Dr Anil Prakash and Dr DR Bhattacharyya on the above project connected with the development of an anti-malarial drug.
Prof Kalita said that they surveyed some tribal-dominated areas of the State and other neighbouring States between July 2011 and December 2013 to explore traditional knowledge and medicinal plants.
The findings of the survey led to the collection of over 50 plant species from 25 botanical families. This was done in consultation with the traditional healers in-situ. These healers are practising their remedies against malaria for a fairly long time.
Of the over 50 plants, plant species from the Scrophulariaceae rosaceae and Amaryllidaceae families found at Joyrampur in Dibrugarh district, Jonai in Dhemaji district and Tamulpur in Baksa district have been found to be highly effective against malarial parasites.
The purified extract of the Amaryllidaeceae is found to be at par with the standard anti-malarial drug, Chloroquine, in terms of the bio-efficacy against the malarial parasite. Information about this plant was received from a tribal healer of Baksa district.
PhD scholar Jayashree Dutta is working on indigenous plant-based formulations on diabetes, also on the basis of ethno-traditional knowledge. The team has found bel (Aegle marmelos) as a very effective anti-diabetic, especially its fruit. It has also found onion (Allium cepa), nayantara (Catharanthus) and tejpat (Cinnamomum tamala) as effective anti-diabetic plants.
Another PhD scholar Anindita Talukdar is working on kidney protective drugs on the basis of ethno-medicinal knowledge. Her study, sponsored by the Department of Biotechnology, is being carried out in collaboration with the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, and the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, Shillong.