Project ESR5: Phylogenetic exploration of antitumor compounds in the giant genus Euphorbia L.

PhD Fellow: Madeleine Ernst

Supervision: Dr. Nina Rønsted

Host Institution: Natural History Museum of Denmark

Co-supervisors: Dr. Henrik Toft Simonsen, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Dr. Niclas Nilsson, Lead Discovery, LEO Pharma A/S (AC7), Dr. Olwen M. Grace, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (AC4).

This project will use a phylogenetic hypothesis of Euphorbia to explore correlation with published ethnomedicinal use, chemical diversity and antitumor activity profiles of selected species across the phylogeny.

About the project

Euphorbia (the spurge genus)is one of the most species rich (ca. 2000 species) and diverse plant genera on earth with an almost global distribution. All species produce a latex, which is often highly toxic, chemically diverse and used in herbal medicine throughout the world. A compound from Euphorbia peplus has been developed into a drug for the treatment of actinic keratosis, a precancerous skin condition, by the Danish company LEO Pharma. In this project we use the evolutionary relationships (phylogeny) among species of the genus Euphorbia to guide modern drug discovery.

Duration: 3 years – start March 1st 2014.