The Search for Bioactive Compounds From The Malaysian Forest


Nordin Hj. Lajis


Traditional & Complementary Medicine Exhibition 2007 (TCME 2007), Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia




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Malaysia has embarked on the promotion of research capacity in science and technology in the 1980’s in an effort to enhance its status into an industrialized nation through promotion of knowledge based industries. New bioactive natural products were thought to be the potential new wealth generating products to be derived from its rich and diverse biological resources. However, the search for novel bioactive candidates for lead compounds require highly integrated fields of expertise such as rapid selection of highly likely structures with unique pharmacology and provide a good chance of drug ability. Good experience in identifying these candidates is necessary to avoid unnecessary costly and fruitless experiments due to inappropriate decision. It has also been well known that the rates of discovery in these efforts are very and costly, and other approaches such as “Combinatorial Chemistry”, computer assisted discovery (in-silico) and biotransformation have not been successful. The search for new bioactive compounds with the goal of discovering new lead compounds for drugs has been conducted in small scale and in quite isolated manner. It is not surprising since 1980’s were the beginning of capacity building in natural products chemistry. Many activities to create awareness in research were conducted with the support of various agencies and international initiatives including the UNESCO, IFS, JSPS, and Australian ADAB programs. These include organizing of seminars, exchange of scientists scheme, workshops and access of sophisticated instrument facilities in developed countries. The Malaysian Natural Products Society, formalized in 1994, has been instrumental during this period in coordinating the national activities for the benefit of the local scientists. Many highly sophisticated instruments crucial for natural products research such as high field NMR, MS, and other chromatographic facilities are now available in the country, although many are still underutilized. As the results of these numerous aspects of investigation on Malaysian bioresources have been conducted. The resurgence of the use of herbal medicines in health care (supplements, medication or energy booster) demands new awareness, paradigm and possibly new technology in ensuring the safety and efficacy of these products. In view of this, a workshop was organized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry in June 2006 in Dhaka, to specifically discuss this issue and make recommendations for further necessary actions by relevant international bodies. In this presentation, I wish to discuss the development of these two aspects of studies, i.e., the search of new bioactive compounds from Malaysian plants, and approaches to standardization of Malaysian herbal extracts. Representative examples to be discussed are the studies of the bioactive compounds from zingibraceaous species, and chemical profiling of medicinal plant extracts using online LC-UV-MS/MS analytical techniques.