To'abaita Authority for Research & Development (TARD)

[P.O Box 13, Honiara, Solomon Islands/ Email: Tel:+677 7424025]

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

North Malaita student offered grant to pursue PhD Studies in France

A North Malaita postgraduate student at the University of the South Pacific and future leader has been accepted to pursue Doctoral (PhD) studies at the University of Toulouse III in France.

The student whose achievement stand to inspire upcoming scholars is Mr Luke Mani, who hails from Rufoki Village in West Fataleka. Luke Mani also has blood ties to To'abaita through his mother who is originally from Sulagwalu Village in North Malaita.

A brief of Mr Luke Mani's educational background include:

- Bachelor of Science (chemistry emphasis), USP, 1991-1993;
- Postgraduate Diploma (Chemistry), USP, 2003;
- Master of Science (Chemistry), USP, 2004 to early 2005
Msc thesis title: Isolation and characterization of antibacterial compounds from the Fijian marine sponge, Suberea clavat.

Since 2005, he has worked with the Institute of Applied Science at the University of the South Pacific on various collaborative drug discovery projects including one with the University of Utah (anticancer drugs from marine sponges) and the Georgia University of Technology (anticancer, antibacterial and antifungal drugs from marine algae). These partnerships, funded by the pharmaceutical industry and the United States government have resulted in patents including one filed for an anticancer compound in early 2006 by the Georgia University of Technology group.

In early 2006 Dr Cecile Debitus, Professor Bill Aalbersberg and Luke Mani applied for and secured a PhD thesis grant from the L’Institut de recherché pour le developpement (IRD), a French institution with interests in research/development related to tropical countries. It is understood that IRD receives hundreds of applications annually from across the Carribean, Africa, Asia-Pacific and latin America for doctoral thesis projects – the successful ones getting funded.

According to Mr Mani, his proposed thesis project is titled “Antimalarial Marine Natural Products from Solomons and Fiji”. The proposed thesis involves discovery of new antimalarial agents. Small compounds are extracted from marine organisms and tested for inhibitory activity against the enzyme, protein farnesyl tranferase (PFtase) - the inhibition of which is lethal on Plasmodium falciparum. Compounds having best properties are tested against a further complement of other biological and biochemical assays and finally against animal malarial models (P. vinckei petteri). Chemical modification (semi-synthesis) will also be performed to evaluate structure activity relationships.

New antimalarial agents are expected from this study. In case of a relevant antimalarial activity, compounds maybe proposed for support for development to Medecine for Malaria Venture, (an organization focused on fighting the global malaria epidemic). The results obtained during the thesis will lead to international papers or patent depending on the chemical novelty of the bioactive compounds obtained. This thesis will contribute to the capacity building of Solomon Islands and the University of the South Pacific in a field of particular interest to our nation.

The research will be done at the UMR152, Université Paul Sabatier (University of Toulouse III) in France under the supervision of Dr Cécile Debitus. The UMR152 has been involved since 2003 concentrating research efforts on antimalarial agents discovery.

Mr Luke Mani is expected to leave Fiji to the Solomon Islands later next month to spend a few days with family members before flying off to Paris, France in early November. Upon completion of his 3 year studies, Mr Mani would become the first Fataleka and To'abaita person to hold a Doctorate degree especially in the field of Chemistry.

Therefore, on behalf of all the North Malaita students and people we would like to extend our sincere congratulations to Mr Luke Mani and family for his recent personal achievement. It is indeed a huge challenge and inspiration at least to all our North Malaita upcoming scholars to follow Mr Mani's footsteps, especially to go from a Postgraduate Diploma to a PhD in a very short time. Our students in Fiji also wish to extend our thank you for your family's kindness and help in hosting our social gatherings and activities at your residence. Any North Malaita student who wants to personally congratulate Mr Luke Mani can email him at

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