PENANG, 11 DEC.: The industry has been urged to invest more actively in research into the production of nature-based pharmaceuticals that has the potential for growth, especially in Malaysia. According to Tan Sri Prof. Mohamed Salleh Mohamed Yasin, Director of the United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), Malaysia has a rich diversity of natural resources and this is an asset for the growth of industries producing nature-based pharmaceuticals.
"80% of world population depends on medicines derived from herbs and natural resources because they are cheap and easily available. Malaysia has over 1,300 types of health products made from natural resources and which are registered under the Ministry of Health Malaysia. However, research into the production of nature-based pharmaceuticals is still very limited due to lack of funding for purposes of research.
"It usually takes 12-15 years to produce a new drug and requires a huge capital outlay of about USD 800 million and above. However, if the industries are willing to invest, we will see more development and new discoveries that can benefit society," he said during his keynote address titled ‘From Nature to Medicine: Threats and Challenges’ at the International Conference on Natural Products at the Bayview Beach Hotel, Batu Ferringhi, Penang.
He added that Malaysia has to take this opportunity to increase research on nature-based pharmaceuticals before others take advantage and exploit the rich biodiversity that can be found in this country.
"However, in our excitement to explore the potential of these natural resources and the active ingredients in the plants, we must also consider issues on the sustainability of natural resources. Without proper planning to protect our biodiversity, we cannot continue to take and make use of these resources," he said.
Prior to that, Prof. Ahmad Shukri Mustapa Kamal, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International Affairs) in his speech while launching the conference, said that industries producing nature-based pharmaceuticals could generate a new source of income for the country and have the potential to grow and expand if there is effective integration between these industries and the research institutions, especially in the universities.
"To ensure that the research will not stop midway and to maximize the impact of the research, integration and planning are crucial. It is crucial because the production of nature-based pharmaceuticals and health products are closely monitored and controlled in terms of authenticity, quality, safety and evidence of their efficacy," he said.
A total of 300 researchers, lecturers, pharmacists and students participated in the two-day conference that commenced today.
This conference was jointly organised by the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences USM, the Malaysian Natural Products Society, Management and Science University, Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Society of Pharmaceutical Technology and the United Nations University " International Institute for Global Health.