Navindra Seeram: Natural Products Researcher

Uploaded by UniversityOfRI on 21.01.2010

From the earliest of times, ancient cultures indigenous people have used plants for medicinal
purposes. If you come around here, what you're going to see here is another herb which you
probably don't know about but it's the Cuban version of Oregano, it's called Cuban Oregano.
The leaves have been used by my mom and my grandma as a seasoning when they cook, and
as you can see here it's used in South America for sore throat, for treating coughs, congestion
and so on. So here you can see a sugar cane, native to India, grown widely in the U.S.,
and also in South America, has been used as a topical antiseptic. There are other plants,
for example, this plant here, it's called a Madagascar Perriwinkle and it has actually
provided us with two anti-cancer drugs, vincristine and vinblastine, and as you can see here,
you know these compounds who are isolated and have been developed into prescription
anti-cancer drugs.
About fifty thousand years ago when ancient man was eating a lot of plants,
plant-based diet, roots and tubers and berries, our genes expect plant-based diet. If you
don't get that diet and you're moving towards more meat based, "inflammatory" based diet,
then you're actually cheeting yourself from the wonderful benefits you can get from fruits
and vegetables. The color in their diet, many American's diet, is catchup or mustard, not
that that's wrong, but the colors I would want to see in your diet should be berries
and fruits and vegetables and spices and herbs. Most of the world's population do not have
access to a doctor or to medical care in the way that we regard western medicine, and therefore
people in other parts of the world are always using plants. My interets are in evaluating
these folklore, these medicines, that have been used traditionally and to put a modern
research focus and find out is this really true, if so, what's the active ingredient
in that plant that's giving it it's medicinal properties. After spending five years at UCLA
I started looking elsewhere for new challenges, and in looking at different schools URI emerged
from among many as a very small, unique, beautiful school where I could be in a great location
but at the same time be in a school in the College of Pharmacy which has a very rich
history in natural product chemistry. My lab is now fully-functional. I have a great team
of grad students and post-doc fellow. We have undergrad students who volunteer in the lab.
So it's a perfect picture to me. I want to take our school into the next generation,
I want to bring in the best, the brightest grad students, teach the brightest undergraduate
students and inspire them to continue the work that I am doing today so that they can
be the next generation of scientists.