CQU PhD student Janice to share plant research at major international agriculture conference

18 October 2022

CQUniversity PhD student Janice Mani's research into the antioxidative and anti-cancer potential of some Australian native plants could have significant pharmaceutical benefits.

Originally from Fiji' the third-year PhD student has been invited to present her research at the 2022 Crawford Fund's TropAg International Agriculture Conference in Brisbane on 31 October.

"I am investigating some native Australian plants' used traditionally as "bush medicine" and/or for nutritional values' namely: Gumbi gumbi' Kakadu plum' Illawarra plum and Tuckeroo plum for their antioxidative (acting to counteract the damaging effects of oxidation in a living organism) and cytotoxic (toxicity to cancer cells) properties'" she said.

"Phytochemicals (plant chemicals) are then further analysed in plant extracts with promising activity. These plants extracts are subjected to chromatographic (separating compounds in a mixture) techniques with the aim of isolating and identifying the active compound.

"I am excited to attend this prestigious event and present my research to a wide and interested audience and learn from other presenters and broaden my research and professional network."

Janice said it is possible that a potential discovery of novel bioactive compound(s) that can be used in drug development may ultimately lead to mass production of the plant of interest and hence involvement of the agricultural industry.

However' she said edible native plants such as Kakadu plum or Illawarra plum are starting to attract interest from the agricultural sector.

Janice isn't new to presenting her research having previously been invited to present at the 17th Asian Chemical – Royal Australian Chemical Congress (RACI) in Melbourne in 2017 and virtually at the Pharmaceutics and Novel Drug Delivery Systems (PDDS)' which was held in Rome' Italy in 2021.

"From a chemical viewpoint' it is fascinating how plants respond to environmental stressors by producing more plant chemical as a defense and survival mechanisms. These myriads of chemical compounds have shown to have high antioxidant capacities and previously various effective compounds from plants such as quinine' morphine' paclitaxel' camptothecin and etopoide' to name a few have been isolated and is used in today's modern medicine'" she said.

"Due to the high occurrence of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases' I have a keen interest to investigate and validate more natural foods and agricultural crops with high nutritional and health benefiting properties."

She said she hoped to work in the agricultural industry and was glad she chose CQU to undertake her PhD.

"Whilst exploring potential PhD opportunities' CQU presented a project and supervisory team that aligned well with my research interest and capabilities which were in organic and analytical chemistry'" she said.

She said the facilities at CQU's Central Queensland Innovative Research Precinct (CQIRP) were of great benefit to her research.

"I think I am quite content with the facilities and their willingness to upgrade certain instruments for the purpose of my research. I feel that CQU is advancing well in research and as our research cluster grows' we definitely can expand our capacity in terms of facilities and instrumentation'" she said.

"I do hope to play a more significant role in this important industry in the near future' as its existence supports' sustains' and impacts the nutritional and wellbeing of the entire population."