Pharmacognosist Sees Potential In Bio Entrepreneurship

BUAN Professor Daniel Motlhanka Botswana's only Professor of Pharmacognosy. PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
BUAN Professor Daniel Motlhanka Botswana's only Professor of Pharmacognosy. PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG

Entrepreneurs have been urged to explore untapped Bio entrepreneurship potential, as natural resources remain unexploited whilst posing huge business opportunities for production of pharmaceuticals.

Speaking at the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences, (SANBio) workshop last week, the country’s only Professor of Pharmacognosy, Daniel Motlhanka whose area of expertise is in natural products for phytotherapy, urged budding entrepreneurs to take advantage of natural resources.

“Natural resources have potential of creating medicines for emerging non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, stroke, persistent chronic fatigue, gout, erectile dysfunction, hormonal imbalances which leads to infertility and aging,” he said.

He added that entrepreneurs need to adopt  the culture of research in order to reach their target. Giving a medical example of medical natural resources of economic potential, Motlhanka talked about the cannabis case noting that marijuana has a huge economic potential.


“Even though marijuana is said to be illicit it can also resolve a huge quantity of health problems such as pain reduction, aggression, nausea and appetite suppressant while some will help with bone growth and help fight bacteria,” he explained.

Motlhanka indicated that research on various strains of Marijuana is critical and optimises ones variety that produces non-psychoactive cannabinoids of high therapeutic value. 

The one-day SANBio workshop was held in partnership with Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH). It was held to determine how stakeholders could collectively support the innovations developed locally to sustain them towards commercialisation.

 The SANBio programme seeks to address the gender gap in leadership positions in the bioscience-based businesses thus imparting leadership and entrepreneurship skills to females.

To date, approximately R25 million has been invested in innovations in health and nutrition covering in vitro diagnosis, forensics and super healthy foods for both humans and animals. BIH has also committed R1million to support innovations in health and nutrition. This portfolio presents the status of the investments made in 13 innovations by the programme and its partners in the SADC region in the form of seed and flagship grants.

This year’s call for applications will be closed on Friday. The winners will get an opportunity to compete in the Annual South Africa Innovation Summit start-up competition for a trip to Silicon Valley where they will stand a chance to win U$1 million.

At the SA Innovation Summit, they will pitch to a pool of investors in the Biosciences space with possibility of winning cash grants. There are opportunities to proceed to further participate at an annual global start-up festival called SLUSH in Helsinki, Finland in November.

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