Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Institution: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Department: Biosciences Business unit, Bioprospecting Platform


Role in project: CSIR will be implemented at WP1 (Bioprospecting), WP2 (Chemodiversity), WP4 (Automation/Bioinformatics), WP5 (Development), WP6 (Dissemination) and WP7 (Project management)

Contribution: Participation in WP1, WP2, WP4, WP5, WP6 and WP7

Brief description of Organisation:
CSIR ( is one of the leading research and development, technology and innovation institutions in Africa, and undertakes approximately 10% of all research and development on the continent. The CSIR has cooperation agreements with major international R&D organisations and companies, and is currently working with 18 African countries in R&D related projects. CSIR Biosciences has offices in Pretoria and Johannesburg and has over 200 employees. It has a critical mass of scientists, engineers and technicians in a number of areas including bioprospecting, discovery chemistry, discovery biology, plant biotechnology, bioprocessing technologies, product and process development, analytical services, as well as support services in intellectual capital management, technology commercialisation, project coordination and management, business development and community interaction. The Operating Unit has been involved in eight INCO FP4 and FP5 projects, one DGXIV project, and is currently involved in seven FP6 integrated projects, a STREP initiative and a SSA. CSIR Biosciences is also the first South African institution to collaborate in the European Cooperation in Scientific and Technical Research (COST) Network. Bioprospecting research within CSIR Biosciences combines the efforts of a multidisciplinary team including structural biology research to identify the mode of action of the traditional preparations, medicinal chemists performing synthetic modifications at optimizing active ingredients to improve activity and chemical product and processing optimization of herbal remedies. The Bioprospecting Group consists mainly of natural product and bio-organic chemists at MSc and PhD level who focus on the scientific validation of plant based traditional medicines. The isolation and structure elucidation of active ingredients using conventional techniques such as semi-preparatory HPLC, NMR and HPLC MS is one of the strong points of the group.

Short Profile of Staff and relevant experience:

  • Dr Vinesh Maharaj, Research Group Leader, CSIR, Biosciences. He is an author of more than 10 scientific publications and an inventor of 5 patents. He leads a research group of 15 researchers focusing on the scientific validation of traditional medicine in South Africa.
  • Dr Nivan Moodley, Senior Scientist; CSIR, Biosciences. He is an author of 4 publications. Major areas of expertise include natural products chemistry, biological evaluation of extracts in close collaboration with molecular biologists/biochemists/pharmacologists, isolation and structure elucidation of compounds.
  • Dr Gerda Fouche, Senior Scientist; CSIR, Biosciences is an author of more than 10 publications and an inventor of 2 patents.  Her major areas of interest are the isolation and structural elucidation of bioactive molecules and biological assaying.
  • Dr Paul Steenkamp, Senior Scientist, Biosciences. He is an author of more than 5 publications. His major interests are qualitative and quantitative evaluation of plant extracts using modern LC techniques (HPLC-DAD, LC-MS).
  • Other staff: Mr Eric Khorombi, Scientist, natural products; Miss Pamisha Pillay, Senior Scientist, naturalproducts; Mr Nial Harding, Scientist, natural products chemical analyst;

Selected publications in line with scope of the project.:

  1. Fanie R. van Heerden, R. Marthinus Horak, Vinesh J. Maharaj, Robert Vleggaar, Jeremiah V. Senabe, Philip J. Gunning, An appetite suppressant from Hoodia species, Phytochemistry, 68 (2007) 2545–2553.
  2. Hans-Gerd Janssena, Chris Swindells, Philip Gunning, Weijun Wang, Christian Gruna, Krishna Mahabira, Vinesh J. Maharaj, Peter J. Apps, Quantification of appetite suppressing steroid glycosides from Hoodia gordonii in dried plant material, purified extracts and food products using HPLC-UV and HPLC–MS methods, Analytica Chimica Acta,  617 (2008) 200–207.
  3. Maryna van de Venter, Saartjie Roux, Lelethu Bungu, Johan Louw, Neil R. Crouch, Olwen M. Grace, Vinesh Maharaj, Pamisha Pillay, Prenitha Sewnarian, Niresh Bhagwandin, Peter Folb, Antidiabetic screening and scoring of 11 plants traditionally used in South Africa, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 119 (2008) 81–86