Materia Medica Malaysiana

June 28, 2004


Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 6:43 am

Tongkat Ali and pegaga go international with patent awards

Tongkat Ali, a herb known to almost every adult in this country, may be the choice of treatment for male infertility and sexual dysfunction by the French, Mexicans or the Finns in a few years.
Research on Tongkat Ali and another common herb, pegaga, has resulted in three international patents for Malaysia, including one that could eventually see extracts of these herbs in pharmaceutical preparations abroad. The three inventions by the Malaysia-Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team have been patented in the United States, Europe, Japan and Malaysia since research on the herbs began in 1999, said Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (Frim) director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Mohd Ali.

The patents are jointly held by the Malaysian Government and MIT. All benefits arising from the royalties will be shared by the Government and the MIT-Malaysia team.

Frim hopes to complete all its basic research and development work by 2006, after which efforts to commercialise discoveries will begin.

The Malaysia-MIT Biotechnology Partnership Programme is an effort between MIT and researchers from the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute (Mardi), Universiti Sains Malaysia, University Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Institute for Medical Research, Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (Sirim) and Tropbio Sdn Bhd, a private research company.

Frim is the implementing agency and the National Biotechnology Directorate, the designated authority of the project.

Funded by the Government, the programme on natural product discovery focuses on two common local medicinal plants — Centella asiatica (pegaga) and Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat Ali). Tongkat Ali is traditionally used as a general tonic to treat high blood pressure, tuberculosis, fever, diarrhoea, jaundice and dysentery. It is widely believed to have aphrodisiac properties. Pegaga is traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, fever, toothaches and to improve memory. In Kelantan, it is used to treat malaria.

Patents procured under the programme cover:
* The process of isolating asiatic acid from pegaga (Malaysian patent #: PI 20003987). Initial studies have shown the acid to be effective in inhibiting cell proliferation, in particular, cancer cells.
* The bioactive fraction of Eurycoma longifolia (Malaysian patent PI 20003988). Trials have shown the bioactive fraction to be suitable for the treatment of male infertility and sexual dysfunction.
* The genetic markers for Eurycoma species (Malaysian patent PI 20031565). This invention features methods of identifying which Tongkat Ali plants have the desired characteristics. It can also be used to differentiate the various Tongkat Alis in a country.
The second phase of the programme beginning this year, will see advanced research and development of Tongkat Ali, leading towards product discovery, said Razak.

Scientists will also begin studying its anti-malarial and aphrodisiac properties during this phase.

To address the critical issue of irregular supply of Tongkat Ali plant in the wild, Frim has embarked on a cultivation project.

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