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Unlocking the therapeutic and commercial potential of Ireland’s historic boglands - Trinity College Dublin

An innovative, ground-breaking project at Trinity College is set to harness the untapped pharmaceutical potential of Ireland’s historic boglands, following receipt of significant funding.

The project “Unlocking Nature’s Pharmacy from Bogland Species” is focused on identifying the potential therapeutic and commercial uses of native Irish bog plants, distinctive bog waters and the microbiome of unique bogland species. The discovery and sustainable production of which would be of enormous social, cultural and economic significance to the local regions and the country.

This exploratory interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary project led by Dr Helen Sheridan, Associate Professor of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Director of NatPro Centre for Natural Products Research and Fellow of Trinity College was awarded €6m funding from the IIP programme at the Department of Justice.

Dr Sheridan said: “The general public are aware of the threat to the world’s rainforests, the reduction of biodiversity and the potential disappearance of undiscovered medicines and natural molecules. This same threat to biodiversity applies in Ireland, particularly to our boglands, which constitute an enormous natural national resource and heritage. These ancient, rich and fertile landscapes are sole custodians of a varied and unique biodiversity that has accumulated over many millions of years, as species evolved in these distinct environments. Compellingly, a number of these plants have historic documented use in Irish Traditional Medicine for a variety of preventative and therapeutic indications. We are at the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey. We have the opportunity to apply the lens of modern science to ancient tradition, and to transform those learnings into future scientific practice, all through the exploration of this fertile uncharted territory in our own backyard. As Seamus Heaney said, ‘Our pioneers keep striking inwards and downwards’.

Combining phytochemical, metabolomic, molecular biology and botanical approaches, researchers will identify key chemical entities or compounds with activity that can then be targeted at priority health areas of unmet need including inflammatory, auto-immune, viral and neurodegenerative disease. In addition, the project will aim to identify natural insect repellent and pest control solutions (for diseases such as – Malaria, Chagas disease, Zika virus) and commercial products in the healthcare and wellbeing sectors.”

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