Naureen Aqueel

Pakistan’s hub of scientific research

Posted on: December 7, 2009

Published in Spotlight (class newsletter), December 2009.

The University of Karachi has become the hub of scientific research with the university producing 100 PhDs every year, 60 per cent of these being from the faculty of science, according to officials. The faculty is regarded as the biggest home of scientific knowledge in the country hosting 23 departments and five research institutes.

A scientist carries out research at the famous HEJ Institute of Chemistry.

However, the researchers feel that the university and its departments lack a proper record-keeping infrastructure from where information about various ongoing and past researches can be easily obtained.

Prominent centres such as Dr. A.Q Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetics Engineering, HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry and Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicines and Drug Research are engaged in important research work on different subjects. Some prominent past and ongoing research activities on the campus are summarized below:

Breakthrough in enzyme research

One of the most recent significant research achievements of the Karachi University that came to public attention was the breakthrough in enzyme research at the Dr. A.Q. Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (KIBGE). The institute was able to produce five enzymes of high industrial value locally which cost the country around $10 billion a year to import from abroad. The institute was able to get international patents for the enzyme producing strains and to establish itself to sell the processes to industry and provide them with technical support.

Allergic plants

A team of researchers from the Department of Botany, headed by Dr Anjum Parveen, has recently initiated a programme called, ‘Identification and Quantification of Allergenic Plants from Sindh’, which was sponsored by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The researchers aim to identify and control the plants that cause lung and respiratory tract infections.

Honey as natural medicine

In February 2009, researchers from the Department of Pharmacology unveiled that they had conducted intensive studies on honey and discovered that it would have therapeutic effect in case of inflammation, platelet aggreagation, blood coagulation and impaired glucose hemostasis. They also found that honey can prevent heart attacks as well as strokes (attacks of paralysis). The research was conducted by Dr Asif Ahmed, a medical doctor, who is working for his PhD under the supervision of Dr Rafeeq Alam Khan, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology.

Breakthrough in leishmaniasis treatment

In March 2008, scientists from the HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry claimed that they had developed a herbal ointment for the treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis, an infectious skin disease transmitted by the bite of certain species of sandfly. The disease, which is considered a serious public health concern in many countries, is now endemic in many parts of Pakistan. The research, headed by Dr.Iqbal Chuadhry, Director HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, was done in collaboration with Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and Chandka Medical College (CMC) and was a five-year long research project.

Industrial enzymes

The Department of Biotechnology is at present conducting research on industrial enzymes, including detergent enzymes. A team,  headed by Ms. Shafaq Ayaz under the supervision of the department’s chairperson Dr. Mustafa Kamal, is working on replacing chemicals in detergents with milder components in order to reduce energy consumption.

DNA sequences in mango found

Early in 2008, a team of researchers led by Dr Kamran Azim, at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) claimed to have discovered more than 20,000 base pairs of DNA sequences of mango for the first time in the world.

Research on drug resistance

The Department of Biotechnology is carrying out research on drug resistance developing in society. It seeks to identify drug resistant bacteria.

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