DST-NRF SARChI Chair in Phytomedicine, Tier 1
Primary discipline: Pharmaceutical Sciences (2013 – 2018)
www.alvaroviljoen.com He completed a BSc, BSc Hons (cum laude) and MSc (cum laude) in Botany at Stellenbosch University.
In 1994 he commenced with a PhD at the University of Johannesburg on the chemotaxonomy of the genus Aloe, which was completed in 1999. In 1999 he was appointed lecturer in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the Department of Pharmacy, University of the Witwatersrand.
In 2002 he was promoted to senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand and in 2005 to Associate Professor at the same institution. In July 2005 he was appointed as a research fellow in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology (Pretoria). He has authored/co-authored > 200 peer reviewed papers and supervised 50 postgraduate students working on the topic of phytochemical exploration and biological activity of indigenous medicinal and aromatic plants. Based on research contributions in the field of medicinal and aromatic plants he has been elected on to the editorial board of several journals and he is the Editor-in-Chief of
Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Elsevier). In 2013 Prof Viljoen received the SAAB Silver medal for his outstanding contribution to botanical research and in the same year he received the TWAS-ROSSA Award from The World Academy of Sciences for advancing the knowledge on the safe and effective use of herbal medicines.
Although South Africa boasts a tremendous biodiversity, complemented by indigenous knowledge on local plant use, the basic research required to lead to the optimised commercialisation of indigenous resources has remained a neglected research priority. This lack of research partly explains the void in South African-derived commercial products on international markets. Using metabolomics, a holistic, inter-disciplinary field of research, medicinal plants will be methodically explored to unravel the complex interactions in biological systems. The success of any phytomedicine hinges on three crucial aspects; quality, safety and efficacy. The research chair in phytomedicine will specifically focus on using state-of-the-art analytical techniques to develop elegant, yet practical methods for the quality assessment of medicinal plants and formulated products.
Research interests Despite its existence and continued use over many centuries, and its popularity and extensive use during the last decade, herbal medicines have not been officially recognised in most countries. Consequently, education, training and research in this area have not been rendered due attention and support. The quantity and quality of the safety and efficacy data on phytomedicines are far from sufficient to meet the criteria needed to support its use worldwide. This is partly due to a lack of adequate or accepted research methodology for evaluating traditional and herbal medicines. It is envisaged that the Research Chair in Phytomedicine will use modern technology to explore “old wisdom” which will, in turn, add substantial value to assist in developing some of South Africa’s botanical assets into commercial products and may be instrumental in advancing the socio-economic value of our indigenous resources to the benefit of mankind.
His expertise and knowledge is rated amongst the very best in the country and therefore he is frequently requested to review papers for journals, projects for the NRF as well as the Medical Research Council of South Africa.