San Diego Botanical Garden to Create Medicinal Plant Research Consortium

Encinitas CA– Last week, San Diego Botanical Garden launched a national consortium for collecting and researching medicinal plants, made possible by a $384,000 grant from The Conrad Prebys Foundation.

Over the next year, SDBG and its collaborators at the Salk Institute will establish what will become a premier model for the conservation and conservation of economical plants and the development of herbal medicines. Just as willow bark has been used as a pain reliever for centuries and study of the active ingredient, salicin, led to the development of the world’s most commonly used drug, aspirin, the consortium has intention to unlock more herbal solutions and foster new medicinal discoveries.

Capitalizing on San Diego’s wealth of technology and expertise as a national hub for groundbreaking advances in medicinal and horticultural sciences, the Medicinal Plant Collection and Research Consortium will catalyze drug discovery in San Diego. Diego and beyond.

“The Conrad Prebys Foundation is thrilled to fund this project because it supports our vision to build a stronger, healthier San Diego through an innovative and collaborative approach,” said Erin Decker, director of grants at the Foundation. “This national plant collection and consortium form a cutting-edge model that will contribute to both environmental conservation and economic development goals by studying and developing plant-based solutions.”

Ari Novy

Ari Novy

“In the coming months, we will organize a San Diego-based consortium comprised of scientists and stakeholders from plant biology institutions, drug development researchers and experts on traditional uses of medicinal plants,” said San Diego Botanic Garden President and CEO Ari Novy, PhD. , who is also an adjunct associate professor at the Salk Institute. “This group will help guide the development, conservation and use of a diverse collection of medicinal plants, with the goal of improving human health outcomes and plant conservation. The collection will also be available to medical and botanical researchers, conservation institutions and other interested communities around the world.

Other partners who will guide this project include the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute; the San Diego branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and other experts in drug discovery and plant science from University of California San Diego; Ionis Pharmaceuticals; SRI (formerly Stanford Research Institute); indigenous experts in ethnobotany Kumeyaay Community College; and the Jamul Indian Village Tribal Historic Preservation Office from California.

The collection will focus on species used in Western medicine from antiquity to the present day; medicinal plants of indigenous peoples; and medicinal plants of the Southwestern United States, with a focus on the flora of San Diego, among others. The project will procure these plants both through field collection and acquisition from other national and international institutions and house them at SDBG. Through this process, the consortium hopes to acquire and cultivate at least 500 new medicinal plants, while developing comprehensive live plant collection protocols intended to optimize drug discovery from the collection.

In addition to maintaining the collection of medicinal plants,” Novy continued. “SDBG will establish a medicinal plant garden to teach the more than 200,000 children and adults who visit us each year about the conservation, cultivation, use and discovery of medicinal plants.

On the laboratory side of the project, the Medicinal Plant Collection and Consortium will enable research into thousands of plant-derived compounds and their potential impacts on health outcomes for hundreds of diseases.

Specifically, the consortium will use genomic and metabolomic methods to develop proof of concept for metabolite discovery, focusing on a specific group of medicinal plants and controlled storage and processing conditions. This work will be led by Todd P. Michael, PhD, research professor at the Plant Exploitation Initiative in Salk and Research Associate at the San Diego Botanical Garden, and Joseph Noel, PhD, Professor, Arthur and Julie Woodrow Chair and Director of the Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics in Salk.

“We can’t wait to see what exciting discoveries will come from this innovative project,” Decker said. “Through support from the Foundation, SDBG and Salk will inspire individual, hands-on learning about plants while developing a new process for cutting-edge collaborative research and

development of phytosanitary solutions. We look forward to working with these partners to impact the San Diego community and beyond.

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Alvin J. Chase