New Centre takes homegrown science to next level

A new Biodiscovery Centre at the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S) will take Samoan science to the next level and encourage home-grown medical innovation.

So says S.R.O.S. Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Seuseu Tauati.

The Biodiscovery Centre, which had its official ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, is a $250,000 tala Government-funded project focused on developing local cures for serious disease. 

According to Dr. Tauati, the hope for the centre's overarching ambition is to make a contribution to the most pressing health problems facing mankind: 

“Looking at the [...main] problems in health across the world, you have cancer at the top, second is antibiotics are not working as you’re taking pills and they’re not working, and so the world is running out of antibiotics,” he said.

“That’s why we [are trying] to go back to our natural [flora] because our plants [...because scientists] don’t know much about it.”

The S.R.O.S. plans to use the Centre to explore the potential for plants' biochemistry to develop solutions to these problems. 

The scientific research will explore local knowledge about the healing property of natural remedies, such as leaves used to treat fevers and stomach aches. 

Before, the plants used to cure fever and so forth are the information that people are already aware of like a leaf traditionally used for fever or stomach ache.

The S.R.O.S are also working together with the traditional doctors (taulasea) in choosing which plants could be investigated for their medicinal properties. 

“We’re trying to work with them, not to take their bread and butter but just be working beside them, absorb what they are [able] to share," he said. 

All scientists at the Centre are locals and, according to Dr. Tauati, the Centre is a big step for the development of a local scientific community instead of just recruiting foreign scientists.

“In the environment of scientists and research, it means that Samoan people born and raised in Samoa are now leading the research," he said.

"We don’t really have outsiders. They just come for technical training to assist us".

The C.E.O. says there currently is an adequate number of laboratories in Samoa which can now be tagged into the knowledge as the employees have already been trained.

“Thanks to the government scholarship programmes that have enabled the local students or people to go overseas for training and come back," he said. 

Inside the Centre exists another laboratory, where scientists examine plant extracts and observe their effects on cancer cells. It is the first time active cancer cells have been brought into the country.

“And then we’ll see exactly what inside the plant is causing it and that’s what the research is all about," he said. 

For their type two diabetes research and antibiotics programme, the S.R.O.S have already identified plants to be used in their experiments. 

Those remain classified as part of the Centre's intellectual property. 

“Once we fill in all those, then we can make it public and move into the next stage especially for conservation [... so that we may] keep them protected," Dr. Tauati said.

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