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India has high potential to export drugs based on plant actives

Dr Mukesh H Shukla is a bioherbal research scientist based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. His herbal discoveries have earned him recognition both in and out of India in the field of alternative medicines.

Dr Mukesh H Shukla
Dr Mukesh H Shukla

Recently, three bioactive drugs developed by Dr Shukla — for HIV-AIDS, liver dysfunction jaundice and ischemic heart diseases — earned patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Presently working on a few important herbal drugs, more drug patents in future are on the cards. He also runs a bioherbal research unit called Ayushi Biotech, which is engaged in the research of plant origin medicines since 1986.

Dr Shukla has been felicitated with the Bharat Vikas Ratna Award (2010) by the All India Business Development Association, New Delhi. He has also published 15 volumes on plant. His most significant and informative coursework includes, potential bioactive compounds on HIV, TB, Malaria and the Immunity.

In an exclusive interview with India Medical Times, Dr M H Shukla shared his experiences, tough times and future plans:

What motivated you to pursue a career in Alternative Medicines as a field of study?

I did my first graduation in Commerce faculty (H A College of Commerce, Ahmedabad) but sheer love, strong determination and unbreakable efforts for the modern scientific observations and study had inspired me to further educate myself in the field of Ayurvedic (Herbal) medicines. I did my MD and PhD in Alternative Medicines not merely for practicing but to learn more scientifically about plants and its bioactive diversity and prospective applicability for the millions through the showered culture and heritage of India. I was inspired by my grandfather’s work on plants and its medicinal preparation and propelled my research work on plants and its biodiversity. I had heaps of failures too but strong willpower has posed me on the international screen today.

Who had the biggest influence on your life and career?

My scholarly father, who was an eminent writer and scholar of the Sanskrit language, was a consistent motivator. He procured his education under streetlights and triple graduated in 1934-35. His dazzling memory span was incredible in spite of the critical circumstances and he could remember the names and addresses of more than seven hundred fifty students of the school where he was principal. His aura and unique span of memory had then led me to poke attention on memory related disorders and heterogenic probability. My father was a patient of Asthma and had no relief but more adverse effect of modern steroidal drugs. This motivated me to explore my interest in Ayurveda.

My grandfather also was a Master’s in Ayurveda (Herbal Kingdom) in those days and I was a witness of his activities and work. In spite of such a critical financial and social surroundings, he had organized a varied ambiance in his own life.

How challenging has been the journey?

It has definitely been a challenging one when no financial institute, bank or government responded to my research portfolio. The only co-operation I got through out my research coursework was from the US Department of Health (NIH) and USFDA besides, the European Drug Discovery Council.

Has it turned out to be what you expected so far?

Yes, thanks to the US government and the European Council – I could reach my target.

How did you develop an interest in the field of plant origin medicines?

I developed an interest after my father’s death due to Asthma. Besides, millions of sufferers awaiting some safe and effective medicines with low cost factors made me think on these lines. I observed that our own heritage of plant kingdom could be of great value but lacked scientific analytical study. I also found that more than 120 modern drugs are made out of the plant kingdom. The most important factor is that plants have a series of ‘Active’ compounds and they should be precisely observed for their ‘Biodiversity’ and the ‘Chemistry’.

What’s your favourite part about being a scientist?

I had developed my interest as a scientist because scientists have crucial and challenging role to develop various drugs. That is the thrilling part.

What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy pharmaceutical chemistry and its pathological effects the most.

How Ayushi Biotech came into being? What has been the idea and what challenges have you faced while running this unit?

Ayushi Biotech is my beloved progeny born in 1986 when HIV was taking its hold throughout the world. I am the sole proprietor of the research unit — Ayushi Biotech. I suffered a lot to run this unit as none of the financial institutions or governments encouraged my portfolio. My ambition was that our country should pioneer in providing research drugs to the world. The most significant challenge I enjoyed during my career was that sitting in one corner of the country, I succeeded in my objectives.

Three bioactive drugs developed by you have earned patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. How do you see this as a development in drugs based on plant-based extracts?

It is definitely encouraging that the world’s most developed country has booked my research work and appreciated it. Our country has high potential to export drugs based on biotechnology – plant actives. In near future, anti-tuberculosis drug will be processed for international patents. The most significant is that my anti-malarial drug discovery has been published in the Indian Patent Office. Malaria, TB and HIV are three diseases on prime focus of the WHO because 75 per cent of health budget of the world is being spent on these three diseases. My objective is to help in controlling the health budget by putting to use my drug discoveries thus channelize the huge fund into education and other awareness factors. I want to work towards disease free humanity.

How promising is Bioherbal Research in a country like India? What actions and initiatives does it require?

India has huge potential of plant kingdom and we can save invaluable foreign exchange, get the cheaper drug with efficacy and save health budget of our country. The scientists in the field must be encouraged and bureaucratic legitimacy should be discouraged. The plant based and most promising researches are sandwiched between unpractical decisions made by the government itself. The patent terms are for twenty years from the date of its original application and we get less time to commercialize it for the patients. Since 2008, my anti-HIV drug discovery patent application in India has been pending whereas in USA, South Africa and PCT-International it has been granted. I am more interested in sufferers of our own country. The research is so costly that the government should look towards our problems and direct the banks and financial institutes to provide easy finance for the same instead of much-complicated paper work.

Any new drug you are looking forward to file patent for in immediate future?

I am looking forward to file a patent for an anti-tuberculosis drug. We have millions of people suffering from it in our country and third world countries. They will be benefited with this safe, effective and low cost drug.

Share with us the research you are currently working upon?

Dementia (memory loss), arthritis and heterogenetic disorder (genetically defined disease) are of prime focus for the next research platform.

What achievements are you most proud of in your career?

Four drug discovery and many more to come.

What are your other interests apart from herbal research?

I like to educate and give lectures both in and out of India on environmental contour with sustainable strategy. My efforts on these studious assignments were not limited to India. I was invited to deliver lectures from BBC Radio while I was in UK, by the University of Nairobi, Kenya and in Tanzania. I had been appointed as a permanent visiting research scientist at the Munufu Traditional Drug Research Centre, Tanzania. I have had prolific educative meetings on the subjects with our Malaysian counterparts. Recently, I had productive lectures on plants and bioactive compounds in Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida (UP).

I have been enrolled as an honorary international member scientist at the Global Health Council, USA, international member scientist at STOP TB Crusade (WHO), Geneva and an honorary international member scientist at the Science Advisory Board, Virginia, USA.

I am associated with the West African Doctors Network, Zambia and intends to dedicate my acquaintance on plants and other biotechnological factors in West Africa for the betterment of the human life and the educational dialogues to improve health, social and biodiversity related environmental aspects.

What are your future plans?

Millions of sufferers should be benefited with drug discovery, particularly low cost drugs coupled with safety and efficacy. I have arranged a series of free counselling and educational camps for HIV-TB and Malaria affected area in and out of India. “Prevention is better than cure” and I will carry on lectures, seminars and counselling crusade in the country.

Message for budding medical professionals and bioherbal research scientists?

“Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached” (Swami Vivekananda) – Face the challenges as our own birth is for the service to mankind. Serve the poor community with love and affection as it works more than medicines. Indian plant kingdom is so astounding that we can serve the whole world through our cherished heritage. Feel GOD in each patient and you will enjoy the serenity in your own life with the zipped blessings.

by Vidhi Rathee

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