In our Distinguished Scientist series we introduce and honor GLOBE-PA professional members who have made extraordinary contributions to the launch of the organization.
Dr Tanveer Alam was born in Bijnor, India in 1974. He received his Ph.D. in the field of Natural Product Chemistry from Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, India in 2001. He immediately started his career as an Executive-R&D in a Flavour & Fragrances (Natural) Company, later he also managed R&D in different National & Multinational Natural Products related companies.
He is a a faculty member of BioNatural Healing College, California, USA and Ph.D. supervisor in JJT, University, Rajasthan, India. He is among the Advisory Board Members in several BioPharma & Natural Food Colors Industries, and a Member of Editorial Boards and Referee for more than twenty five National & International Journals.
Currently, Dr. Alam is looking for business opportunities to commercialize the knowledge and the natural product substances of University of Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman.
At GLOBE-PA we believe in people who are committed to natural products related research and businesses, we believe in those who love what they do . Dr. Alam, what made you want to pursue this career and research field?
My desire to work with natural, clean ingredients began when I was an undergraduate student. As I learned more about natural ingredients I realized that they (organic, plant-based, non-GMO) can offer a healthy and safe alternative to synthetic compounds. So I started my work on Natural Products in 1996 when I joined my Ph.D. work in School of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, India.
What is the current situation in Oman like: how important NPs are in academic research? how important NPs / traditional medicine in healthcare?
Oman is endowed with rich biodiversity both marine and terrestrial that has acclimated to the arid climate. Its agro systems both traditional and conventional encompass a wide range of crops including herbs, vegetables, fruits, grains and forges. Its mountains, villages, valleys and coastline are rich with indigenous plants, animals and species.
Oman has a wide variety of medicinal plants and fascinating unexplored marine natural products. The country is home to about 1,200 native plant species, which includes trees, shrubs, and herbs. Oman also bestows brilliant underwater gardens which favor greater species diversity for rare varieties of marine natural products.
With the firm belief that intensive research in pharmaceutical sciences can bring great benefits to the public in terms of improving quality of life and national development we carry out our research.
In addition, the Sultanate of Oman is in possession of enormous medicinal plants and marine organisms resources, and it is highly desirable that these resources should be processed in Oman in order for the people to benefit from its resources. Overall, the Sultanate of Oman’s rich wealth of natural products makes it an ideal location for establishing new businesses based on natural products, that would be a unique opportunity for the country to be at the forefront of the envisaged development. Moreover, this is valuable from a technology transfer point of view, as it allows the broadening of the technical expertise base in Oman, the training of staff to work in the emerging industries and, long-term, the creation of new employment.
The practice of traditional medicine in Northern and central Oman is based on the humoral system of Graeco-Arab medicine or “Unani tibb.” However, in Dhofar, the Southern region of Oman, this system is not commonly used. In Northern and central Oman, knowledge of herbal medicine is generally not written but is passed from one generation to the next by learning from elders. Few studies on traditional and herbal medicines have been conducted in Oman.
Based on information obtained from various studies, the status of knowledge concerning safety and efficacy of medicinal plants used in the gulf region suggests that the practice of local healers is a family tradition and passed down through generations. When the present generation of healers die, their knowledge may die with them. Most current practitioners have very limited knowledge in the identification of species and procedures for preparing medicinal remedies. This highlights the gradual loss of rich traditional knowledge.
“This old traditional knowledge should be preserved before it is forgotten and lost.”
Tribal healers, in most of the countries, where ethno-medical treatment is frequently used to treat cut wounds, skin infection, swelling, aging, mental illness, cancer, asthma, diabetes, jaundice, scabies, eczema, venereal diseases, snakebite and gastric ulcer, provide instructions to local people on how to prepare medicine from herbs. Traditional healers keep no records, the information is mainly passed on verbally from generation to generation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has shown great interest in documenting the use of medicinal plants used by tribes.
Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and University of Nizwa (UoN) are having good research facilities and doing a lot of research work on Natural products. University of Nizwa has a Chair of Oman’s Medicinal Plants & Marine Natural Products and working on isolation of pure Natural compounds and their applications.
What is the current situation of NP research, industrial opportunities in Oman?
Oman’s economy is dominated by large petrochemical and natural resources corporations. They represent a strong and innovative force to ignite R&D, however, their scope is limited to their specific interest that is not sufficient to work out a nation-wide efficient program. For example, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) dominates the oil and gas sector and has a solid R&D infrastructure. It has been developing advanced technology for enhanced oil and gas recovery. However, there are few, if any, spin-off businesses emerging from this innovative endeavor, and interactions with academia and other R&D institutions does not seem to well-explored.
Oman has relatively well-developed universities and colleges. The first public university in Oman, the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), founded in 1986, has nine colleges: Arts and Social Sciences, Economics and Political Science, Education, Law, Nursing, Agriculture and Marine Sciences, Medicine and Health and second largest university in the Sultanate is University of Nizwa (UoN). Both universities are having good research facilities and doing a lot of research work on NP. University of Nizwa has a Chair of Oman’s Medicinal Plants & Marine Natural Products and developed a number of technology for NPs and their derivatives.
“We are successful in R&D of Natural Products as we have good research labs and modern techniques of analysis but unsuccessful in commercialize of these Natural products because there is no large firm to support.”
The major problems of R&D in GCC countries are lack of research funding and international collaboration.
You mentioned that you have a NP library that you would like to commercialize ..
University of Nizwa (UoN) has a Natural Product Library. Scientists work on different plant species (Marine as well as terrestrial) and isolate pure compounds and perform their biological activities. Finally scientists develop new technologies for Natural Products. UoN work for different Natural Products industries all over the world and transfer the technology to them.
Scientists are working on Boswellia sacra (Omani Frankincense), world best variety of Boswellia and isolating anticancer compound and making some water soluble analogues by using synthetic pathways.
UoN is open for all Natural products industries for transferring the technology. It has a number of technologies for Standardized Herbal Extract, Pure Phytochemicals and Natural food Colors.