Research Themes

Aim: The overall aim of the MedAg Hub is to transform the production of high-quality plant-derived therapeutics into an integrated, national industry that spans primary producers and manufacturers.

The ARC Research Hub for Medicinal Agriculture (ARC MedAg Hub) will integrate agronomy, precision agriculture and germplasm improvement using genomics, with extraction and combinatorial chemistry approaches, to modernise the production and extraction of existing and emerging plant-derived therapeutic products. The intention is to transform the industry by reducing inputs and costs (sustainability), increasing yield (exports) and positioning Australia as the world-leading supplier of plant-based medicinal products. 

The “neglect” in breeding medicinal plants provides the opportunity to increase productivity using proven traditional and biotechnological approaches. By connecting industry with diverse expertise and combining them with university-based research expertise and platforms, a multi-disciplinary research platform that underpins medicinal agriculture can accelerate gains in yield, discovery and translation.

The expertise and capabilities developed in the ARC MedAg Hub will also be broadly applicable to other agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Developing an industry ready workforce, including through research training is also a key aim of the ARC MedAg Hub.

Figure 1. Research Themes and Programs

The Research Themes respond to the ARC MedAg Hub’s aims of transforming the production of high quality, plant derived therapeutics into an integrated, national industry than spans primary producers and manufacturers through multi-disciplinary research in collaboration with industry. The Research Themes are structured around improving the profitability and sustainability for primary producers (Theme 1)  and adding value for pharmaceutical manufacturer and end-users (Theme 2). These two themes are lead by research staff at La Trobe University and divided into specific programs within which the research leaders work in conjunction with partnering industry and research organisations of the ARC MedAg Hub.

The ARC MedAg Hub Research themes are:

Theme 1: Improving the profitability and sustainability of medicinal agriculture

Program 1: Enhanced agronomy for production 
Program 2: Improving cultivation practices
Program 3: Improving medicinal plant germplasm

These programs are aimed at increasing the yield and profile of desired active compounds and their responses to abiotic and biotic stresses by improving agronomy and applying phenomics (e.g. hyperspectral imaging) and genetics to germplasm improvement. 

Theme 2: Adding value for pharmaceutical manufacturers and end-users

Program 1: Develop novel synthesis and extraction technologies
Program 2: Bioprospecting of novel plant-derived proteins/peptides/compounds
Program 3: Novel non-invasive high-throughput analysis, measurement and monitoring technologies

Through these programs we are developing and applying novel extraction technologies and enrichment of active pharmaceutical ingredients from plants to add value to plant-derived therapeutics. The application of high-throughput bioprospecting screening platforms will be utilised to identify novel plant-derived compounds as a prospective source of new therapeutics.