Home » SWEDISH UNIVERSITIES ENGAGED IN SOUTH ASIA RESEARCH 2015 » Uppsala University, 2015 » Division of Pharmacognosy, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Uppsala University, 2015

Division of Pharmacognosy, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Uppsala University, 2015

Postal address: Institutionen för Läkemedelskemi,  Avdelningen för Farmakognosi, BMC (Uppsala Biomedicinska Centrum), Box 574, SE-751 23 Uppsala
Visiting address: Husargatan 3, Entrance C7, Offices B7:5, Laboratories B5:3
Web page: http://fkogserver.bmc.uu.se/

Contact person: Professor Lars Bohlin, Head of department; phone: +46 (0)18 471 4492

Research and education connected to South Asia:

The Division of Pharmacognosy at the Dept of Medicinal Chemistry (Läkemedelskemi) has for many years been connected to South Asia, especially Sri Lanka. Assistant professor Premila Perera Ivarsson, an expert on Ayurvedic medicine, dealt with traditional medicine in her research; a task which included identifying anti-inflammatory components from Sri Lankan medicinal plants and herbal drugs. She was also teaching the 5 credits course on Global Pharmacy at Uppsala University, and responsible for sending Swedish students to Sri Lanka as part of the Linnaeus Palme exchange programme. Premila Perera Ivarsson however tragically passed away on 19 June, 2002, and her funeral was held in the Uppsala Cathedral on July, 8, 2002.

The connection to Sri Lanka remains however. Professor Lars Bohlin has later been engaged in a research collaboration with Professor Jayantha Welehinda, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. They worked jointly in the field of biochemistry of medicinal plants. Prof. Bohlin also teaches at the 5 credits course in Global Pharmacy, organised by the Division every year, and Prof. Welehinda supervises students from the course when they do field work in Sri Lanka. 

As a PhD candidate, Wimal Pathmasiri was engaged in research on Medicinal Plants and herbal preparations in Sri Lanka. He defended his Licentiate thesis on ”COX 2 Inhibitors of Natural origin: Dereplication, Isolation, and Structure Eludicidation” at the department on 3 November 2003. Abstract of the licentiate thesis: Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme, also known as prostaglandin endoperoxide H synthase-2 (PGHS-2), is shown to be involved in inflammation and cancer; thus it has become a drug target for finding novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Two Sri Lankan medicinal plants, Gynandropsis gynandra (Capparidaceae) and Acronychia pedunculata (Rutaceae), were selected for investigation of novel COX-2 inhibitors, based on their use in traditional medicine against inflammatory diseases.
Wimal Pathmasiri later moved from the department, and defended his doctoral dissertation in 2007 at the Dept. of Biochemistry & Organic Chemistry at Uppsala University.

Dr. Sunithi Gunasekera works as a post-doc researcher at the department. She has a PhD in Structural Biology from the University of Queensland, Australia, in 2009.
In November 2013, Dr. Sunasekera was given SEK 751 000 as a Swedish Research Links grant for a research project entitled ”Discovery of bioactive compounds with potential pharmaceutical applications from Sri Lankan Medicinal Plants” to be carried out during the three-years period 2014–16. The collaboration partners on the Srilankan side are Dr Chamari Hettiarachchi & Professor E. D. de Silva, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Colombo. In her own department at Uppsala University, also Associate Professor Ulf Göransson & Dr Adam Strömstedt are involved in the project.

Swedish Research Links grants were introduced by Sida and the Swedish Research Council in 2002, with an aim to stimulate cooperation between researchers in Sweden and those in selected developing countries. From 2013, The Swedish Research Council has taken over the responsibility for all Swedish development research. The long-term aim of the programme is to contribute to mutual scientific and socioeconomic development of the countries involved through funding for support to collaborative research projects of high scientific quality and mutual relevance. See the full list of projects granted Swedish Links (Asia) grants 2013 (as a pdf-file).

Project abstract: The purpose of the project is to identify bioactive compounds in plants used in Sri Lankan traditional medicine, to combat infectious diseases and cancer. In specific, we will target water-soluble extracts and peptides, which represent a neglected source of bioactive natural products. The project will provide insights into occurrence, biodiversity and biosynthesis of stable peptides with potential pharmaceutical applications, and build a multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers in Sweden and Sri Lanka involving pharmacognosy, chemistry and molecular biology. The specific goals of the project are to:
1. Identify and collect plants used in the Ayurvedic medicinal system, through a literature and a field survey.
2. Chemically characterize plant extracts, using chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry and NMR.
3. Biologically evaluate crude aqueous & lipophilic plant extracts for their anti-microbial, anti-cancer and cytotoxic activities.

4. Gain insights into biosynthesis of specific peptides by analyzing the genetic arrangement of bioactive peptides and their processing enzymes.