Oman’s rich genetic resources offer immense economic value and benefits and the effective preservation, conservation and management of these precious resources are essential to global food security, sustainable development and the livelihoods of millions of people worldwide, according to experts who attended a Science Café session held at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) Students Service Centre yesterday.
The session was organised with special emphasis on Oman’s genetic resources, particularly with regards herbal medicine, fragrances, essential oils and personal care products and in partnership with SQU’s student-led Biology Group.
“There are an estimated 121 prescription drugs in use today, which come from only 90 plant species. On the home front, we’ve more than 400 species of plants in Oman categorised as medicinal plants, these are genetic resources that could be mined sustainablly and be monetised,” Dr Nadiya al Sa’ady, Executive Director, Oman Animal Plant and Genetic Resources Center (OAPGRC) said.
“We’re witnessing greater interest in the cultural role indigenous plants play in our daily lives, whether that’s related to the food we eat, the medicines we take or the perfume, cosmetics and clothes we wear,” she added.
The Science Café panel include Dr Amal al Abrawi, CEO, Oliban; Dr Salim al Wahaibi, Head of R&D, Oliban; and OAPGRC’s Plant Genetic Resources Expert, Dr Ali al Lawati.
Historically, industry interest in plant-derived pharmaceuticals has come and gone. But improved drug-screening technologies and a concern over disappearing genetic resources, particularly from developing countries has fuelled a resurgence of drug-industry interest in natural products and plant-derived drugs.
There is also a growing Omani consumer awareness on health benefits associated with plant-based personal care products that includes cosmetics, perfumes and essential oils.
According to research, the global essential oil market is expected to reach $1.67 billion by 2022, Science Café presenter Dr Al Abrawi of Oliban
“The rapid pace of urbanisation and globalisation have played an important role in the development of the global natural fragrance ingredients market,” noted Dr Al Abrawi, adding: “The fragrance and essential oils market is also witnessing a growing trend of customised perfumes and the use of organic and renewable ingredients in perfume manufacturing.”
Growing consumer concerns over the use of synthetic chemicals in personal care products are also forcing manufacturers to shift from synthetic to natural ingredients.
“This shift clearly fuels the growth of the natural segment. And, given the diversity of Oman’s genetic resources, particularly the 400 plus medicinal plants in country, there are commercial opportunities we should be exploring, whether that’s in herbal medicine, fragrances, essential oils or personal care products,” concluded Dr Al Saady.