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Phylogenetic exploration of medicinal plant diversity

Final Report Summary - MEDPLANT (Phylogenetic exploration of medicinal plant diversity)

MedPlant is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) exploring the evolution and sustainable use of medicinal plant diversity for unmet medical needs. Through a network of 13 PhD and 2 postdoctoral projects, our research develops new interdisciplinary approaches and technologies for selection and sustainable use of biodiversity resources for drug lead discovery from plants. MedPlant consists of leading European research groups, private companies, and public and non-public organisations with complimentary knowledge in this area. It is the aim of MedPlant to inspire appreciation of the Worlds biodiversity and the need to protect and study it, and we hope that ultimately it will increase the number of new drugs brought to the market.
Motivation. The number of new drugs coming to the market is declining and interest in lead discovery from natural resources is seeing a revival. However, although methods for isolation and identification of natural products have advanced explosively in recent decades, methods for selection of potential leads have hardly developed. Hence, training of a new generation of researchers in the proposed innovative field of biodiversity driven lead discovery is both timely and relevant, as it will contribute directly to the economic development and future welfare of Europe and will significantly enhance the employment prospects of the participants.
The Network.
The MedPlant network has been running for four years from October 2013 to 2017 and consists of leading European research groups, private companies, and public and non-public organisations with complimentary knowledge in biodiversity driven drug lead discovery. Together the network partners range from basic academic research activities focusing on the evolution of medicinal plants to highly applied research and drug development in large global companies, governmental authorities, as well as community and conservation work providing fellows with a very broad perspective on all aspects of biodiversity driven drug lead discovery.
The MedPlant network has been training young researchers in new phylogenetic approaches for exploration of medicinal plant diversity as well as complimentary and entrepreneurial skills relevant for work in the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory bodies, NGOs and academia. In addition to research training through their own research projects, MedPlant will familiarise the students with a range of state-of-the-art methodologies in biodiversity driven lead discovery, and provide cross-disciplinary and intersectorial training through network-wide training activities, summerschools, workshops, collaborations and secondments. Researchers also learn to address scientific and non-scientific audiences by dissemination and outreach activities.
Dissemination and Outreach.
MedPlant aims and results have been disseminated through nearly 80 presentations at International Conferences so far. By our outreach activities we want to make people interested in our research and appreciate and protect our biodiversity and motivate young people to work in academic or industrial research. Active participation in outreach activities has been an important part of the training program. We want to train scientists who can communicate with people from all different educational backgrounds, which is crucial for interaction in inter-sectorial, interdisciplinary, multinational teams and companies, and society at large. All fellows have been trained in communication to a variety of audiences and several small videos have been produced and can be viewed on the project homepage A number of projects have produced guides to local medicinal plants handed out to the communities involved, and a practical MedPlant manual on conducting and communicating ethnobotanical research is available as a pdf on the website.