SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY Professor of Organic Chemistry Head Department of Chemistry Tel 868 662 6013 or 662-2002 ext. 83570 E-mail anderson.maxwellsta.uwi.edu PROF. ANDERSON MAXWELL 114 From the earliest times humans have utilized preparations from plants animals and microorganisms for medicinal and other purposes. Modern medicine has benefitted from the extensive traditional medicinal knowledge of many cultures as many currently used drugs and others no longer widely used have been derived directly or indirectly from scientific investigation of the chemical entities responsible for the efficacy of traditional medicinal preparations. Some well-known examples include quinine malaria aspirin pain reserpine hypertension podo- phyllotoxin vinblastine vincristine and taxol various forms of cancer pilocarpine glaucoma and galantamine Alzheimers. The underlying thesis of my research has been that our local flora and fauna constitute a potentially rich resource of medicinal and other products which needs to be explored and the knowl- edge unearthed to be utilized for the social and economic benefit of our people and the development of our society. My research has therefore been focussed on the chemical investigation of unexplored species of our flora and fauna to determine the secondary metabolites produced and thus provide the basis for their utilization and conversion into products that will add value to the social and economic well- being of our country. We have collaborated with colleagues at The UWI Faculty of Medicine Department of Life Sciences and abroad University of Toronto National Institutes of Health University of Mississippi to investigate the biological activity particularly anticancer and antimicrobial activities of compounds isolated. Our work over the years has involved systematic investiga- tion of locally available species mainly from the plant families Piperaceae black pepper family Solanaceae tomato family Rubiaceae ixora family and Euphorbiaceae milkweed family but also selected species from other plant families which caught our interest. We have also worked on microorganisms from unique environments in collaboration with colleagues from the Department of Life Sciences at The UWI St. Augustine. This has led to some interesting findings and proved the importance of pursuing such research of our own biodiversity. The new knowl- edge on the chemistry of the species we have studied has served to indicate the vast hidden treasure of natural compounds which remains to be discovered by continuing investigation of the chemistry of the plants and microorganisms in our local environment. Further studies directed specifically to exploiting the biological activity and other properties of these compounds will bring dividends through the development of products for use in medicine in agriculture in food and in personal care preparations. In addition to the new compounds we have isolated from the plants and microorganisms that we have studied and which have added to the pool of available knowledge on the chemistry of the various families we have also been able to investigate the biological activity of many of these compounds with the aid of colleagues both locally and abroad and to identify some compounds which are candidates for further development into drugs. Our studies on the Piperaceae led to the isolation from Piper tuberculatum a plant traditionally used by diabetics to control their blood sugar of a compound piplarine which has been shown to have hypoglycemic activity.This supported the folkoric use of the plant. Piper aequale gave a compound which showed promising activity against the tuberculosis bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and structure-activity studies are now needed to tailor the activity and selectivity of the compound to determine if it is possible to develop from it a new antitubercular agent. Investigation of the local Solanaceae species genus Solanum showed their potential as sources of steroids which can be used as raw materials for the synthesis of higher value steroi- dal pharmaceuticals. One of the compounds screened in a National Institutes of Health-sponsored programme also showed promising activity against the tuberculosis bacterium. We have also being working on the Pyschotria genus of the Rubiaceae family as representatives of the family and genus are known to produce alkaloids with antimalarial and other types of biological activity. Our efforts so far have yielded some new and interesting compounds and work is continuing Our studies on the Croton gossipifolius species of the Euphor- biaceae family have so far given novel compounds including a cyclic peptide which has shown anticancer activity. Further work to isolate other compounds present is continuing. Given the alarming shortage of effective antibiotics to treat life threatening infections we have looked to bacteria and fungi isolated from unusual environments for example the Caroni Swamp and the Pitch Lake as sources of new antibiotic compounds. Work on a number of bacterial and fungal strains has been ongoing. One strain in particular has yielded compounds which have shown very potent antibiotic action. Further work to identify and study the full scope of the activity of the compounds isolated is continuing.