Academic research activities

Apiaceae of Africa:

Aim: a detailed taxonomic review of all members of the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) in Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar (including morphology, anatomy, chemistry and molecular systematics) - a group of ca. 80 genera and ca. 350 species.

Collaborators: PM Tilney (UJ, RSA), Mei Liu (Harbin, China), AR Magee (SANBI, RSA), SR Downie (Illinois, USA), GM Plunkett (New York, USA), PP Lowry (Paris, France), MG Pimenov (Moscow, Russia), EV Kljuykov (Moscow), TA Ostroumova (Moscow), E Yembaturova (Moscow), AA Oskolski (Kamarov Botanical Institute, St. Pietersburg, Russia), EL Kotina (St. Pietersburg), A Stepanova (St Pietersburg).

Outputs thus far: Postgraduate students (PhD - 3, MSc - 4); scientific papers (42). Final output: academic books (African Apiaceae published in 2013).

Taxonomic studies of Asphodelaceae and Fabaceae:

Aim: morphological, anatomical, chemotaxonomic and molecular systematic studies of African Asphodelaceae and Fabaceae. Taxonomic revisions of African genera of Fabaceae.

Collaborators: PM Tilney (UJ, RSA), AN Moteetee (UJ, RSA), M Wink (Heidelberg, Germany), JS Boatwright (SANBI, RSA), MM le Roux (UJ, RSA).

Outputs thus far: Postgraduate students (PhD - 5, MSc - 3); scientific papers (42). Envisaged final output: academic books.

Medicinal and poisonous plants of South Africa:

Aim: detailed studies of medicinal and poisonous plants that are of commercial and/or forensic interest (including studies on morphology, anatomy, chemistry, biological activity and ethnobotany).

Collaborators: M Wink (Heidelberg, Germany), PM Tilney (UJ, RSA), AM Viljoen (TUT, RSA), SF Van Vuuren (WITS, RSA), IM Hulley (UJ, RSA), GPP Kamatou (TUT, RSA), HS Long (UJ, RSA).

Outputs thus far: Postgraduate students (PhD - 3, MSc - 4); scientific papers (more than 20 over the last five years). Envisaged final output: academic books.

Ethnobotanical studies (Indigenous Plant Use):

Aim: (1) To review all ethnobotanical information for the various language and cultural groups in South Africa; (2) to document traditional knowledge on useful plants in the Cape region of South Africa (including the Northern-, Western- and parts of the Eastern Cape Provinces) in order to provide a detailed synthesis and conceptualization of Khoi-San ethnobotany. Of particular importance is a detailed review of Cape Herbal Medicine (of Khoi-San and Cape Dutch origin) as a contribution to the cultural heritage of South Africa. This is a matter of extreme urgency, as Cape Herbal Medicine is poorly recorded and traditional knowledge is rapidly being lost to future generations. The ultimate aim is a review and synthesis of a distinct and interesting traditional medicine system here called Cape Herbal Medicine (Kaapse Kruiemedisyne).

Collaborators: indigenous experts from several communities in the Cape region, including Calvinia, Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Graaff-Reinet, Heuningvlei, Keimoes, Kleinvlei, Koueberg, Leliefontein, Middelpos, Murraysburg, Nieuwoudtville, Nourivier, Paulshoek, Renosterhoek, Riemvasmaak, Soebatsfontein, Steinkopf, Stilbaai, Wupperthal and Zoar.

Outputs thus far: Postgraduate students (MSc - 3; currently PhD - 3 and MSc - 2); scientific papers on Cape Herbal Medicine (ca. 10 since 2008). Envisaged final output: two academic books.

Research-related international activities:

Visiting Professor: Center for Development of Biotic Products, National Polytechnic Institute, Morelos, Mexico (2014-).

Research collaboration: Several groups, e.g. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (legume studies - Herbarium; DNA studies with Dr Mark Chase - Jodrell Laboratory), Addis Ababa University (Aloe chemistry, with Prof Ermias Dagne); Heidelberg University (DNA studies of the Aloe family, DNA studies of African legumes with Prof Michael Wink - this collaboration has resulted in four joint botanical field excursions in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007, when respectively 25, 23 and 21 and 24 staff and senior students from Heidelberg travelled in SA for two weeks, and also in international books "Medicinal Plants of the World" and others - see below); Prof Gregory Plunkett, New York Botanical Garden (Apiaceae); Prof Stephen Downie, llinois (Apiaceae); Prof Michael Pimenov, Moscow State University (Apiaceae); Dr Alexei Oskolski, Komarov Botanical Institute, St Petersburg, Russia (Apiaceae anatomy).

Hosting of international conferences and symposia: e.g. joint organiser of a chemosystematics symposium at the 4th International Legume Conference in Canberra, Australia; with Prof P.M. Tilney organised the 4th International Apiales Conference in January 2003. The 14 papers on Apiales appeared in a special Issue of the South African Journal of Botany (Vol 70, part 3), edited by Prof Tilney and I. With Dr Moteetee organised a symposium on African Legumes at the 18th International Botanical Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 23-30 July 2011; Host (with Dr Moteetee, Dr Le Roux and Dr Boatwright) of the 6th International Legume Conference (at UJ in January 2013); One of three convenors of the Ethnobotany Sessions at the 20th AETFAT Conference in Stellenbosch, January 2014; Organiser: Joint annual meetings of The Society for Economic Botany and the Indigenous Plant Use Forum (Clanwilliam, 28 June to 3 July 2015).

Research visits: Universities, herbaria, forestry institutes, research institutes and pharmaceutical companies in Austria, Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the U.S.A., as well as Ethiopia, Kenia, Namibia, Uganda and Madagascar. Ben Gurion University in Israel (fact finding mission, on invitation) and the International Aloe 4 Science Council in Dallas, Texas (extensive fact finding mission on the Aloe vera industry in the USA - visited all the major role players and companies in Dallas, Irving and Harlingen - this had an important impact on developing the local industry). Guest Professor at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Heidelberg, Germany during 2000, 2001 and 2002. Invited study tour of Japan (Riken Institute and Toyama University) in 2005. Invited study tour of Traditional Medicine Institutions in Beijing, China (Minister of Health) in 2006.

Radio and television appearances: mainly on the development of African Traditional Medicine (e.g. RSG, SABC2, E-TV, KYKNET, BBC, Finnish Television, French Television).

Invited speaker at international conferences and workshops: Nectar and Nectaries Symposium in Montalcino, Italy; one of two representatives from Africa at the annual international workshops on "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants" arranged by the International Centre for Science and Technology in Trieste, Italy; XVI International Botanical Conference in Vienna, Austria (and its associated symposium on Apiales) in 2005; Annual Conference of the Botanical Society of Japan in Toyama (2005) and at the Riken Institute, Japan (2007); Joint international IOCD and ISDNP Conference, Kasane, Botswana (2008); ICS-UNIDO Expert Group Meeting on Priority needs of Developing Countries in the field of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs), Trieste, Italy (2011); International Conference on Aloes, Forever Resorts Blyde Canyon, South Africa (2012); International Apiales Conference 2014, Istanbul, Turkey (2014); Invited plenary speaker: 63rd International Congress and Annual Meeting of the Society of Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research (GA) [23-27 August 2015, Budapest, Hungary].

Books and scientific publications: Participant and interim board member of the pan-African "Herbal Monographs Project" and the Association for African Medicinal Plant Standards Ltd. (2005-2007). I am active in the international promotion of books on the SA flora and SA medicinal plants through regular meetings and visits, mainly Frankfurt Book Fair (2000, 2002, 2003-2013), London Book Fair (2011, 2014); also Medpharm Publishers in Stuttgart and Tin Wah Press in Singapore. Member of the editorial board of the South African Journal of Botany (an Elsevier Journal); Guest editor (with A.M. Viljoen) of a Special Issue on Economic Botany [published in November 2011 as S. Afr. Afr. J. Bot. 77(4)]; Guest editor (with J.S. Boatwright) of a Special Issue on Legumes ("Advances in Legume Systematics 12") [published in November 2013 as S. Afr. J. Bot. 89, with 33 papers by leading legumes researchers].

Research-related national activities (including government strategy and policy):

Professional associations and advisory committees: Chairman of the NRF Plant Systematics Forum (1995-96); Chairman of the Working Group for Plant Systematics (1995-96); Member of the Research Advisory Committee for the board of the National Botanical Institute (1995-96); Member of the advisory committee for the Witwatersrand Botanical Garden (1995-96); Member of the Research Advisory Committee for Rooibos tea Ltd; Member of the NRF Evaluation Committee for the Technikon programme (1998-99); Member of the Evaluation Committee for the University Development Programme (1998-99); Coordinator of a Workshop and Symposium of the 1996 SAAB conference; Chairman of the organising committee of the SAAB 2001 conference at RAU; Member of the NRF Evaluation Committee for Honours Bursaries (1995-97, chairman 1998); Convenor of the NRF Evaluation Assessment Committee for Plant Sciences (1997-1999); Chairman of Indigenous Plant Use Forum (elected annually since 1996-; organise the annual IPUF conferences, attracting ca. 100-200 scientists, traditional healers and business people each year).

Research-related commercial activities: THRIP-funded collaboration with SA Druggists (now Aspen Pharmacare) in the period 1993 to 1999, to develop various medicinal products and new crops from indigenous medicinal plants. Products included the first branded, modern African Traditional Medicines, the "Healer's Choice" range. This research has lead to a new crop and a registered international patent (Sceletium and its alkaloids); Founding director of Phyto Nova (Pty) Ltd (1999-2004), who developed new crops and new medicinal products based on African Traditional Medicinal Plants, notably Sutherlandia (now a household name, copied by many other companies); the company was taken over by Thebe Pharmaceuticals in 2004 and renamed "Thebe Natural Medicine" with Phyto Nova retained as a brand name (now "Bioscience Brands"). Member of Briza Publications (CK 90/11690/23), a leading private publisher of colourful botanical books, both scientific and semi-popular, on the SA flora; Founding director and elected chairman of the "Aloe Council of South Africa" (Pty) Ltd, a NPC (non-profit company, formerly section 21 company) aimed at uniting and developing the South African Aloe industry (developed a National Standard for Aloe raw materials through the South African Bureau of Standards, SA National Standard 368, edition 1 published in 2007). Part of a multi-million National Consortium, coordinated by the Medical Research Council of SA and funded by the Innovation Fund (Department of Trade and Industry of SA) to develop new drugs from indigenous plants - research funding in the amount of R3 million for three years (2004-2006) was allocated to the African tonic project at UJ.

Research-related involvement in government strategy and policy: Appointed by the Minister of Health (Dr ME Tsabalala-Msimang) to serve on a four-member Presidential Task Team to develop a policy framework for African Traditional Medicine in South Africa (June 2006-, announced in the Government Gazette 29288 No. 1030 of 11 October 2006). I contributed the major part of the final policy document published in the Government Gazette Vol, 517 No. 31271 of 25 July 2008.