Abena Dove Osseo-Asare: "From Plants to Pills: Take Bitter Roots for Malari"

The Institute for the Study of Societal Issues presents: From Plants to Pills: Take Bitter Roots for Malaria
Wednesday, April 9 4:00-5:30 pm
Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, UC Berkeley 2538 Channing Way

Abena Dove Osseo-Asare Assistant Professor, Department of History, UC Berkeley

How do plants become pharmaceuticals?

In this talk, I examine the history of efforts to patent a treatment for malaria made from the bitter roots of fever vine (Cryptolepis sanguinolenta). Malaria is a serious health risk in tropical West Africa. In Ghana, where these bitter roots became known as “Ghana Quinine,” a group of African scientists devoted their lives to creating a patented pharmaceutical from the plant. I consider their interactions with traditional healers from the 1940s, their struggles to establish a fledgling pharmaceutical industry, and the conflicts that complicated the success of the new drug in this postcolonial nation. This little known historical case provides a window into recent controversies surrounding biodiversity prospecting in tropical environments, the rights of indigenous peoples to shared benefits, and the quest for pharmaceutical patents. It is drawn from my recently published book, Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa. \\

*** Abena Dove Osseo-Asare is an historian of medicine and science who focuses on cases in African societies. Her first book, Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2014) is a study of six plants which scientists in Ghana, South Africa, Madagascar and other countries sought to transform into new pharmaceuticals. Abena Dove received her PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. She has received awards from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Hellman Family. She is currently an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is affiliated with the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine at UCSF. Read more about her research and teaching at http://osseo.berkeley.edu

*** This event is free, wheelchair accessible, and open to the public.

For more information, call the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues at 510-642-0813 or emailisscucb@gmail.com.

Date/Time: 
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 4:00pm
Constituencies: 
All Welcome
Location: 
Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, UC Berkeley 2538 Channing Way