Tree bark may be able to cure asthma


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 18 Dec 2003

By SHARON LING

KUCHING: Sarawak is seeking to patent a tree bark extract with the potential to be used in treating respiratory ailments such as asthma. 

State secretary Datuk Amar Abdul Aziz Husain said the extract was found in the bark of a small tree in the Bakelalan Highlands area in Sarawak’s interior.  

He said the discovery was made by Australian research company Cyrelids, to which Sarawak had been sending samples from its rich biodiversity for screening and extracting. 

“They found that one of the samples from the bark is an active agent against asthma and other respiratory illnesses,” he told a press conference after launching the Sarawak Forestry Corporation’s protected areas and biodiversity conservation (PABC) unit here yesterday. 

Abdul Aziz said the state government was now applying for a worldwide patent on the extract.  

Once patented, the extract could be passed to pharmaceutical companies to be developed, he added. 

Abdul Aziz said Sarawak had sent over 5,000 samples to Melbourne-based Cyrelids in the past five years under an agreement where any discovery made must be shared with the state government. 

On the development of an anti-HIV drug from Sarawak’s Bintangor tree, he said it was now in the second stage of clinical trials, which involved testing on humans.  

The drug is being developed by Sarawak MediChem, a joint-venture between the state government and US-based Advanced Life Sciences. 

About US$20mil (RM76mil) has been invested in researching the drug so far and Sarawak MediChem is looking for investors to take up the later stages of product development. 

Earlier, Abdul Aziz, who is also Sarawak Forestry chairman, said the state planned to gazette more forests as national parks to increase its totally protected areas to one million hectares. 

At present, the state’s 20 national parks, four wildlife sanctuaries and four nature reserves cover a total area of about 530,000ha. 

Sarawak Forestry managing director Datuk Cheong Ek Choon said the PABC unit would manage national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves, protect Sarawak’s indigenous flora and fauna, develop conservation programmes and raise public awareness on conservation and sustainability issues.  

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