AUSTIN, Texas (March 13, 2017) — The American Botanical Council (ABC) has announced Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, PhD, President of the Republic of Mauritius, as the recipient of ABC’s 2016 Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award. Gurib-Fakim leads her country as an advocate for African medicinal plants, and has made valuable contributions to the knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants growing on Mauritius and the surrounding islands in the Indian Ocean.
ABC presents the annual award, named in honor of celebrated professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, to an individual who has made significant contributions to research in the fields of ethnopharmacology and/or other areas of medicinal plant research. Farnsworth, who died in 2011, was one of the co-founding members of ABC’s Board of Trustees, a highly published and internationally renowned research professor of pharmacognosy, and a senior university scholar in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, praised Gurib-Fakim’s “extraordinary” achievements. “ABC is deeply honored to be able to recognize the excellent ethnobotanical, pharmacognostic, and conservation efforts and publications of Her Excellency Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim,” said Blumenthal. “Her tireless work on medicinal plants in the Indian Ocean and East African region has already garnered several well-deserved and high-profile international awards. I am certain that the late Professor Farnsworth would highly approve of ABC’s selection of Dr. Gurib-Fakim to receive his eponymous award.”
Gurib-Fakim was elected as Mauritius’s first female president in 2015. Prior to her election, she worked as managing director of Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) Research and Innovation, where she researched the indigenous medicinal plants of Mauritius. Her research interests include ethnobotany and ethnomedicine, and the bioactivity, chemical composition, and quality control of medicinal plants, particularly those with antimicrobial properties. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 research publications and dozens of books, including An Illustrated Guide to the Flora of Mauritius and the Indian Ocean Islands, a three-volume compilation of The Medicinal Plants of Mauritius, Chemistry for Sustainable Development in Africa, and the African Herbal Pharmacopoeia.
“Biodiversity and indigenous knowledge systems underpin life on earth,” said Gurib-Fakim. “Africa’s unique biodiversity will continue to offer humankind new leads and medicine provided that we conserve, document, and validate the traditional knowledge associated with medicinal plants. The latter remains a reservoir of innovative ingredients that not only respond to the needs of industry but also buffer us against ailments that do not yet exist.”
ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD, commented: “Research on the medicinal properties of plants from the African continent is certainly close to my heart, since this was the topic of my graduate research. Therefore, I am very pleased that this year’s award goes to Her Excellency Dr. Gurib-Fakim. Her work on the chemistry, bioactivity, and medical uses of medicinal plants of Africa and the Indian Ocean represents the very essence of what this award intends to recognize: an exceptional career in pharmacognosy research.”
Past recipients of the Farnsworth award include: John T. Arnason, PhD (2015); Harry Fong, PhD (2014); Gordon Cragg, PhD (2013); De-An Guo, PhD (2012); Djaja Soejarto, PhD (2011); A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD (2010); Rudolf Bauer, PhD (2009); Ikhlas Khan, PhD (2008); Hildebert Wagner, PhD (2007); Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD (2006); and Joseph Betz, PhD (2005).
The award was presented at the 12th Annual ABC Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony on March 9, 2017, in Anaheim, California. The event, for ABC Sponsor Members, occurred during Natural Products Expo West.