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NIH Botanical Research Centers Program

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) initiated the Botanical Research Centers Program in partnership with the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)external link disclaimer in 1999, in response to a Congressional mandate.

The purpose of the Botanical Research Centers Program is to promote collaborative, transdisciplinary research on the safety, effectiveness, and mechanisms of action of botanical dietary supplements that have a high potential to benefit human health. The primary research focus of these Centers is on preclinical research that will inform future clinical studies.

The Centers identify and characterize botanicals, assess the bioavailability and bioactivity of chemical components of botanicals, explore their mechanisms of action, conduct preclinical and clinical evaluations, and provide a rich environment for training and career development. The Centers’ research is expected to greatly advance our understanding of the potential effects of botanicals on human health.

ODS and NCCIH are jointly funding three Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Centers and two Centers for Advancing Natural Products Innovation and Technology in the 5-year program cycle for 2015-2020. (See press release.external link disclaimer)

The Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Centers for 2015-2020 include:

The Centers for Advancing Natural Products Innovation and Technology for 2015-2020 include:

Dietary Botanicals in the Preservation of Cognitive and Psychological Resilience

Principal Investigators: Giulio Pasinetti, M.D., Ph.D., and Richard Dixon, Ph.D.

Institution: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York

Partner Institutions: Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick; University of North Texas, Denton

This new Center will focus on the mechanisms through which polyphenol-containing dietary supplements derived from grapes promote cognitive and psychological resilience to common psychological stresses including sleep deprivation. In addition to extending their previous research on the mechanisms of action of these botanical products in the brain, this Center will also seek to understand the role of the human gastrointestinal microflora (microbiome) in their activity, and in cognitive and psychological health more generally.

Botanicals and Metabolic Resiliency

Principal Investigator: William Cefalu, M.D.

Institution: Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

Center website: http://www.botanical.pbrc.eduexternal link disclaimer

Partner Institutions: North Carolina State University, Kannapolis; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick; University of Illinois at Chicago

Over the last 5 years this Center focused on the evaluation of botanicals to prevent metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. In the next 5 years the team will focus on the ability of botanicals to promote “metabolic resiliency,” the ability to maintain health in the presence of stressors such as high-fat diet or inflammation, and to study the mechanisms of action of the most promising botanicals in this context. This Center will also explore the role of the gastrointestinal microbiome in the biological effects of the products studied, which will include bitter melon and fenugreek.

Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women’s Health

Principal Investigator: Richard B. van Breemen, Ph.D.

Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago

Center website: link disclaimer

Established in 1999, this Center focuses on the safety and mechanisms of action of botanicals used by American women to maintain health and quality of life, especially during menopause. Previously, the team focused on the safety of commonly used dietary supplements such as black cohosh, hops, and licorice, and their effects on estrogenic hormones. In the next award period the team will advance its ground-breaking work on the characterization and standardization of complex botanical products, and on the interactions of those products with estrogens and with prescription drugs, with a continuing focus on safety.

The Center for High-throughput Functional Annotation of Natural Products

Principal Investigators: John MacMillan, Ph.D., Roger Linington, Ph.D., and Michael White, Ph.D.

Institutions: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada: University of California, Santa Cruz

This team brings together experts in natural products chemistry, biological screening, data analytics, and bioinformatics to create a Center focused on use of innovative strategies to study the biological effects of natural products. To improve the speed, breadth, and precision of the chemical and biological characterization of natural products, the team will develop innovative, cell-based screening approaches to uncover bioactive molecules of interest and their corresponding molecular targets. A vital component of this Center will be the dissemination of primary data to the greater scientific community through a searchable, data-driven website.

The UIC Natural Products Technology Center

Principal Investigator: Guido F. Pauli, Ph.D.

Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago

The primary objective of this center is to coordinate the curation and dissemination of good research practices and state-of-the-art technologies for research on natural products. These activities will be pursued in coordination with the above-mentioned Center for High-throughput Functional Annotation of Natural Products. This center will also pioneer the application of cutting-edge bioanalytical methodologies to botanicals, develop innovative approaches to the holistic characterization of the metabolomic complexity of natural products, and share all of these efforts with the relevant research communities.