In our Distinguished Scientist series we introduce and honor GLOBE-PA professional members who have made extraordinary contributions to the launch of the organization.
Felix, please tell us a few words about yourself?
I am an Ethnobotanist, Field Plant Taxonomist, Data Curator and Consultant. I am with the Department of Pharmacognosy and Environmental Medicines, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. My research interests are based on Plant Taxonomy (including Chemotaxonomy and Molecular Systematics), Bioprospecting of novel bioactive compounds, Ethnomedicine, Herbal formulations and Indigenous Science Knowledge.
What made you start a career in this field?
I grew up learning African Traditional Medicine as an apprentice and its efficacy, contribution and potential in healthcare delivery instigated my interest in Natural Products, so I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany in 2012 and later an M.Sc. in Plant Taxonomy and Biosystematics from the University of Nigeria.
Prior to my M.Sc. degree I started my career formally as a trainee in Ethnomedicine and Field Plant Taxonomy at the International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD)/Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP) – a leading institution in ethnomedicine and natural products research in Nigeria, where I acquired special skills in Plant Identification and ethnomedicinal research. I was also lucky to receive further training on:
- Good Agricultural and Wild Collection Practices for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (GACP‐MAP), and
- Development and Commercialization of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants
I was lucky to be a student Prof. Maurice Iwu and Late Prof. Sofowora. Prof. Iwu is a globally distinguished Natural Products Scientist. He is the Chairman of Bioresourcs Development Group – that includes InterCEDD Health Products (a leading natural products research and development company in Nigeria, where I started my career).
Why do you think there is a future for NPs?
The world is gearing towards the application of natural products and turning away from synthetic products. On daily basis, more institutions, NGOs and corporate organizations come up with visions on natural products. While, the potential in natural products research is still underestimated despite the potentially unlimited resources as there is still a lot to be discovered and harnessed in nature.
What projects are you working on now?
My current works are:
- Documentation of West African medicinal plants, techniques for their proper identification/authentication, their ethnomedicinal uses (including their method of preparation, administration and possible side effects).
- Bioprospecting of novel bioactive compounds through gathering of indigenous knowledge systems and ethnomedicinal uses.
As a consultant I also offer a broad range of services for businesses, or researchers
- Consulting for natural products developers and users (individuals, non-profits, companies) on West African medicinal plants – advising on the REGULATIONS governing the cultivation, wild collection, exportation and commercialization of raw materials for natural products research and development.
- Supply of raw materials and plant extracts to individuals, non-profits, companies working on natural products R&D.
- Survey of ethnobotanical knowledge of indigenous people.
- Market survey and analysis on natural products and their usage.
As a young and ambitious scientist I also have big dreams:
- To develop a database of complete information on identification and collection of West African medicinal plants and their ethnomedicinal uses.
- To bridge the gap between the local traditional healers and natural products scientist towards achieving better utilization of West African medicinal plants.
- To develop a system through bioprospecting that will discover the potential of the numerous untapped bioresources (medicinal plants/natural resources).
My works both in the field and in the labs have yielded lots of achievements. I have documented several hundreds of medicinal plants and their uses, some published in journals, books and presented at scientific conferences. Based on novel knowledge acquired from ethnobotanical surveys, I and my team have developed natural products both for local consumption and commercialization. I have also been invited as a speaker to talk on Indigenous Science Knowledge in relation to traditional medicine practices and medicinal plants use. I also have existing business relationships with natural products R&D firms in South Africa, Europe and the United States of America.
A collaborative research project on the “Domestication of Tetrapleura tetraptera for Livelihood Improvement in Tropical Africa”. Makerere University (Uganda), Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute of Ghana, Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (Ghana) and Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria). (2014)
Development of the Medicinal Plant Garden for the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
What are your greatest challenges, what kind of support do you seek to achieve your goals?
The major problems of research (especially for upcoming researchers) in developing countries are lack of research funding and international collaboration. These are the problems I face as a young scientist. I need collaborators and sponsors to assist in funding the research while providing the technological needs in order to achieve the stated goals.
What are your expectations from Globe-PA?
I believe a community like Globe-PA can create an avenue for collaborative research on natural products. It can become a platform where knowledge is exchanged between researchers and natural products developers – whether individual, non-profits or institutions. It will be a system where the gap between the traditional knowledge bearers/traditional healers and modern scientists can be bridged. Globe-PA can help every researcher and lover of natural products achieve their dreams.
SELECTED ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS
Nwafor, F.I., Tchimene, M.K., Onyekere, P.F., Nweze, N.O. and Orabueze, C.I. (2018). Ethnobiological study of traditional medicine practices for the treatment of chronic leg ulcer in Southeastern Nigeria. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 17(1): 34-42.
Orabueze, C.I., Adesegun, S.A., Nwafor, F.I. and Coker, H.A.B. (2017). Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants and herbal formulations used in management of malaria in Nsukka, Southeast, Nigeria. Nigerian Journal of Natural Product and Medicine, 21: 66 – 81.
Anwuchaepe, A.U., Onyegbule, F.A., Ajaghaku, D.L., Nwafor, F.I. and Okoye, F.B.C. (2017). Evaluation of the in vivo antioxidant, toxicological and chromatographical profiling of leaf extract and fractions of Crescentia cujete Linn. (Bignoniaceae). Asian Pacific Journal of Health Sciences, 4(3): 27-35.
Nwafor, F.I., Egonu, S.N., Nweze, N.O. and Ohabuenyi, S.N. (2017). Effect of processing methods on the nutritional values and anti-nutritive factors of Adenanthera pavonina L. (Fabaceae) seeds. African Journal of Biotechnology, 16(3): 106-112
Tchimene, M.K., Obonga, O.W., Ugwoke, C.E.C., Nwafor, F.1. and Iwu, M.M. (2015). Anti-ulcer activity of Combretum obanense (Baker f.) Hutch. & Dalziel stem bark. International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research, 7(5): 1051 – 1055.
Tchimene, M.K., Obonga, O.W., Ugwoke, C.E.C., Nwafor, F.1. andIwu, M.M. (2015). Antioxidant activity and pharmacognostical studies of Combretum obanense (Baker f.)Hutch. & Dalziel. European Journal of Medicinal Plants, 10(3): 1-6.
Nweze, N.O. and Nwafor, F.I. (2014). Phytochemical, proximate and mineral composition of leaf extracts of Moringa oleifera Lam. from Nsukka, South-Eastern Nigeria. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences, 9(1): 99 – 103.
Chapters in Edited Books
Nwafor, F.I. and Ozioko, A.O. (2018). Igbo Indigenous Science: An Ethnobiologist Perspective. In: Abidogun, J. (Ed.). African Science Education: Gendering Indigenous Knowledge in Nigeria. Routledge, London, p 68 – 88.
Nwafor, F.I. and Orabueze, C.I. (2019). Role of Phytochemistry in Plant Classification: Phytochemotaxonomy. In: Egbuna, C., Ifemeje, J.C., Udedi, S.C. and Kumar, S. (Eds.). Phytochemistry, Volume 1: Fundamentals, Modern Techniques, and Applications. Apple Academic Press, UK.
Nwafor, F.I. and Orabueze, C.I. (2019).Techniques in Phytochemotaxonomy.In: Egbuna, C., Ifemeje, J.C., Udedi, S.C. and Kumar, S. (Eds.). Phytochemistry, Volume 1: Fundamentals, Modern Techniques, and Applications. Apple Academic Press, UK.
Nwafor, F.I. and Inya-Agha, S.I. (2019). Ethnobotanical Study of Indigenous Peoples’ Medicinal Plants. In: Egbuna, C., Kumar, S., Ifemeje, J.C., and Kurhekar, J.V. (Eds.). Phytochemistry, Volume 2: Pharmacognosy, Nanomedicine, and Contemporary Issues. Apple Academic Press, UK.