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USP influential in region’s first BSD

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L-R: PS for Environment Mr Joshua Wycliffe, UNDP Environment Leader Dr Winifereti Nainoca, PS for iTaukei Affairs Naipote Katonitabua and IAS Director Dr Johann Poinapen launch the Bioprospecting Samples Database. Photo: Supplied.

The South Pacific Region’s first ever Bioprospecting Samples Database (BSD) created by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Institute of Applied Science (IAS) was jointly launched at the Pearl Resort on 20 July 2018.

Officially launching the BSD were Chief Guests, Dr Winifereti Nainoca, United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP) Environment Team Leader; Mr Joshua Wycliffe, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Environment (MoE); Mr Naipote Katonitabua, Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs (MTA) and Dr Johann Poinapen, IAS Director.

The BSD was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) - Nagoya Protocol Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) project, implemented in Fiji by UNDP with project partners MoE, the MTA and IAS.

Dr Poinapen stated that the project allowed his staff to share their knowledge through training community members in taxonomy including the collection and identification of marine samples, and that reciprocally, they gained complementary traditional knowledge in their dealings with the communities. 

He stated that they strived to improve the lives of Pacific Islanders through training, capacity building and providing services to foster social and economic development of communities in the Pacific. 

The GEF-ABS Project has enabled IAS to implement aspects of this mission in Fiji through its interaction with community members, sharing of information and knowledge and working towards developing mutually agreed terms to ensure the fair and equitable sharing benefits associated with utilisation of genetic resources.

Dr Poinapen remarked that the successful achievements of the project were also testament to the support of the project collaborators and IAS hopes to continue this work with the regional governments, communities and the resource owners in years to come.

“IAS is grateful to be involved in the GEF-ABS Project since it now has well equipped natural product and analytical laboratories and can perform natural product extraction services, bioassay-guided purification of active metabolites and the isolation of gram quantities of metabolites required for more in-depth biological testing and/or to support semi-synthetic programmes,” he said. 

According to Dr Poinapen, IAS has established in-house bioassays for general toxicity and for identifying extracts/compounds active against drug resistant pathogenic bacteria and fungi. 

The Institute is also in the process of establishing an anti-dengue test facility and is especially interested in collaborations aimed at the discovery of potential new drugs for the treatment of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The GEF Nagoya ABS project brings more focus to the value of genetic resources that are accommodated in Fiji’s biodiverse areas.

It also elucidates the means by which benefits for ecosystem services could be used to stimulate conservation at the local level, while providing avenues for improved livelihoods.

The project assisted in addressing gaps and barriers to scientific research, particularly the lack of bioprospecting policy and guidelines, and technological and human capacity development in Fiji.

As well, it addressed the limited national capacity to implement, institutionalise and operationalise ABS agreements and the Nagoya Protocol which was signed by Fiji in 2014.

As a result of this joint collaboration between project stakeholders, international partners and the communities of Yasawa, Beqa and Kadavu, IAS through its Pacific Natural Products Research Centre has with the permission of the landowners collected a wide variety of marine samples that have been sorted, analysed and recorded into the Bioprospecting Samples Database. This database is a momentous achievement for bioprospecting research as it is the first of its kind in the Pacific.

The database houses biodiversity and screening information about marine samples collected in Fiji. Specific information includes preliminary taxonomic details, location where samples were collected, scientific results and information such as DNA and voucher collections. 

The large number of samples stored in this database was collected as part of the GEF-ABS project.

The BSD hopes to secure and enhance the flow of information among multiple participants and communities and allows for tracking and monitoring of information by relevant national, regional and international institutions.

This news item was published on 4 Sep 2018 09:02:35 am. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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