Mobility grant takes PhD student’s research to the next level

Debina Lobine in Italy

Mauritius, together with Rodrigues possess a rich biodiversity comprising both endemic and exotic flora and fauna and represent a goldmine for the global food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry, yet it has been largely under-utilized up until now. 

With the increasing demand for natural products or plant-based products, the endemic flora and fauna hold immense potentials for the food, pharmaceutical industry and economic development. 

However, in this case Mauritius is lagging behind despite of being blessed with a wealth of natural resources that could be explored for the benefit of mankind. The reason is that almost all the research studies carried out by research institutions remain locked in lab books and scientific journals because they fail to move in-vitro to in-vivo and clinical trials stage due to inaccessibility to facilities for further research and testing. 

SANBio student ambassador and University of Mauritius PhD student, Devina Lobine is determined to take her research to the next level. Her research interests centers on finding potential bioactive compounds from indigenous medicinal plants and marine organisms for the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases.

With the mobility grant from SANBio and the BioFISA II programme supported through a partnership between the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in South Africa, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA) Lobine recently participated in the ICGEB Course on “Drosophila melanogaster models for neurodegenerative disease” that was held earlier this year in Trieste, Italy.

The course included theoretical and practical parts which focused on introducing neurogenetics and various strategies to induce cell-type specific gene expression. Topics like axonal regeneration and drug discovery were also covered during the course. 

The practical sessions allowed Lobine to get practical experiences on how to measure synaptic functioning, perform in-vivo imaging analysis, assess altered neurological behaviors and evaluate these traits in disease models.  

According to Lobine, the Drosophila melanogaster model is a versatile model in biology and medicine. The model is cheap and easy to work with, and can be easily adopted by different research institutions in Africa. 
Lobine also added that that with the knowledge and skills she has gained during the course, she plans to introduce this model for studying medicinal plants for drug discovery at the University of Mauritius and thus plants with neuro-pharmacological properties can be further investigated in-vivo to evaluate its potential for designing phytomedicines.

“I believe in the power of collaborations and thanks to the SANBio mobility grant for giving me the opportunity to create a pool of network with researchers who are already using Drosophila melanogaster models for studying diseases,” she said.

The funding allows the grant holder a chance to not only expand their resource base but also develop and maintain networks, collaborations , exposure and information sharing in issues of health, nutrition and cross cutting areas in agriculture and environment. 

Activities supported by the grant include; knowledge exchange in the thematic areas of health and nutrition, training and workshops for relevant and specific skills, mentorship visits (for academic and business development of biosciences start-ups) and peer-to-peer exchange meetings at different institutions in the SANBio network. For more information on funding opportunities visit: http://www.nepadsanbio.org/opportunities-funding