International Conference at CSIR-IIIM enlightens scientists on Traditional & Phytopharmaceutical drugs

Dr Zabeer Ahmed
CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) is a premier research institution, under the aegis of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Union Ministry of Science & Technology, located in Jammu with its Branch Lab in Srinagar and five experimental field stations located at different geo-climatic zones across J&K and Ladakh Union Territories.
Since its establishment in 1941, this organization has made a huge impact by contributing more than Rs. 4000 crore to Indian economy by conducting research on various crops like Mint, Hops, Pyrethrum, Artemisia Annua, Lavender and Rose. In order to harness the potential of natural resources of J&K for prosperity of farmers, CSIR-IIIM has undertaken various mega research projects like J&K Aroma Arogya Gram (JAAG), CSIR Aroma and Floriculture Missions.
Out of 101387 square km total land of erstwhile J&K State, only 27632 square km is being utilized and rest of 73754 square km is wasteland. Through these projects, the institute brought 5% of wasteland under medicinal and aromatic plants’ cultivation which after maximum utilization is estimated to generate upto Rs. 5000 crore economy for J&K and Ladakh. This indicates that the region is bestowed with abundant natural resources of very high value which if tapped innovatively can have an impact on socio-economic development.
In addition to mission programmes having direct societal impact, the institute has focused on development of phytopharmaceutical drugs with a goal to positions these globally. CSIR-IIIM, Jammu being nodal institute for CSIR Phytopharmaceutical Mission has steered the completion of two phases and phase-III of Phytopharmaceutical Mission is going to be launched in April this year.
In order to have a robust exchange of ideas, experience sharing and overcoming the hindrances to further the development of phyto-drugs, the institute hosted an International Conference on Traditional Medicine and Phytopharmaceuticals from February 16 to 18, 2024 at Jammu.
The event, first of its kind, deliberating and brainstorming on advances and cutting edge research in traditional medicines and phytopharmaceuticals was organized by CSIR-IIIM Jammu in collaboration with Society for Ethnopharmacology, India (Jammu Chapter).
The conference was inaugurated on February 16 by Dr. Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Science and Technology and Vice President, CSIR, who was the chief guest, in presence of the guests of honour, Dr N Kalaiselvi, DG CSIR and Secretary, DSIR, GOI and Padma Shri Prof. Vinod K Singh, Chair Professor, Gautam & Namita Chair, IIT Kanpur. More than 100 distinguished scientists of eminence, technologists, policy makers, industrialists, academicians, clinicians and researchers from India and abroad including USA, Malaysia, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and Ghana were also present on the occasion.
Dr. Ashutosh Gupta, Principal Government Medical College, Jammu was chief guest at valedictory function. While addressing he said that the conference organized by CSIR-IIIM Jammu and SFE featuring deliberations and meetings among traditional healers, researchers, scientists, industrialists and policy makers would have far reaching impact on global positioning of traditional and phytopharmaceutical drugs.
Pertinently Plant-based medicines, derived from the rich botanical tapestry of nature, embody centuries of traditional healing wisdom. Harnessing the therapeutic potential of botanical diversity, these medicines offer a holistic approach to wellness. Ethnopharmacology, or the interdisciplinary study of indigenous knowledge about medicinal plants, is critical to the preservation and advancement of traditional medicine. Traditional medicine is based on cultural practices and passed down through generations, represents the collective wisdom of various groups. Ethnopharmacology not only archives these important insights but it also investigates the scientific basis of plant-based therapies. This collaboration establishes a link between old traditions and modern healthcare, revealing fresh therapeutic possibilities. Recognizing the value of ethnopharmacology protects biodiversity, empowers indigenous communities and supports sustainable healthcare practices. As society embraces sustainable and natural alternatives, the resurgence of plant-based medicines represents a profound connection to ancient healing traditions, fostering a harmonious relationship between humans and the botanical wonders that have served as pharmacies for generations.
CSIR-IIIM has been the flag bearer of plant-based medicines since its establishment in pre-independent India. Supportive policies of the present government to revive the traditional medicines system have given CSIR-IIIM renewed energy and vigour, as well as resources to work on plant-based medicines. CSIR has already completed two phases of Phytopharma Mission and the third phase of Phytopharma Mission will be starting from this financial year. This unique programme focuses on generating scientific data using modern pharmacological methods to validate the claims of traditional medicines. This involves testing for efficacy, detailed chemical analysis, toxicological analysis and production of these medicines in GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) grade facilities. All this provides the necessary framework for making these plant-based medicines acceptable in the global stage.
During the three days mega-event more than 20 scientific sessions, including ‘I-Connect program: Business Meet’ on theme “Development of Phytopharmaceutical Drugs: Tradition to Translational”, “Young Ethnopharmacologist Award Function”, “American Chemical Society Best Oral Presentation Award Session”, “SFE Best Poster Presentation Session”, panel discussion on “Opportunities and Challenges in Cannabis Research”.
During panel discussion on Cannabis Research, the deliberation among the stakeholders revealed the efforts being made and various hurdles that need to be countered. Medicinal Cannabis is a big opportunity for the economic development of the country. To tap this potential, a proper policy framework at national level is required. It was decided that a white paper has to be put forward to the government flagging bottlenecks and to apprise about the R & D progress made in the country. A centralized policy needs to be framed so as to address all the hurdles faced during the developmental stages. It was also decided that a follow up, brainstorming session should also be conducted for the futuristic approach by the participation of academy, industry, start-ups, regulators and policy makers.
Other scientific sessions included talks on “Phytopharmaceuticals: Drug Development from Traditional Medicine”, “Evidence-Based Validation of Traditional Medicine”, “Traditional Ethnopharmacology Inspired Drug Discovery and Development”, “Development of Botanical/Herbal Drugs: Global Perspective”, “Global Positioning of AYUSH Products: Standardization and Validation”, “Natural Products Inspired Modern Drug Discovery”, “Network/Reverse Pharmacology in Herbal Drug Discovery”, “New Approaches for Phytopharmaceutical Drugs Development”, “Ethnomedicine: an Invaluable Source of Novel Drug”, “Regulatory Aspects of Phytopharmaceutical Drugs (US FDA/EMA)”, “Opportunities and Challenges in Cannabis Research”, “Bioprospecting Plants and Microbes for Development of Therapeutics”, “New Approaches in Natural Product Drug Discovery” etc.
In the Traditional Healers Meet, Director IIIM-Jammu while addressing the participants informed that traditional healers from J&K and UT of Ladakh also have several herbal products to treat various ailments and CSIR-IIIM would in future organize similar meet for traditional healers from this region, to assist them in validation of their compositions and generate data for regulatory compliance, which would eventually pave way for better global acceptability of these medicines. Oral and poster presentations by young scientists and research scholars were also part of the conference and awards were given to best presentations.
The ACS poster presentation award was given to Srijon Gayen, Rubina Chowdhary, Sheetal Bhat and the ACS oral presentation award was given to Norein Khantwal, Mahir Bhadwaj and Priyamvada Gupta. The RSC best poster presentation award was given to Laetita Meuyou Youmbi, Mandeep Kour and Haseena Shafeeq and the RSC best oral presentation award was given to Lokesh Dev, Dhivya Dheer and Nagma Banjare.
The Himalayan awards were given to Tusharika Kotra, Suhail Maqbool, Shweta Sharma and Anita Kumari Rai. The ACD Best Research Awards were given to V Badireenath Konkimalla, Bashir Ahmed and Kapil Dev.
(The author is Director CSIR-IIIM, Jammu)