South African Doctoral Student Sees Potato Fungus as Potential Cancer Fighter

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For South African organic chemistry student Adushan Pillay, conducting research for his PhD is like building with Lego children's blocks.

"That's what we do at a molecular level," he said. "You can't predict what will work - you build and build, and it's trial and error to figure out what works."

A recent report published in, describes the promise of Pillay’s work with molecular compounds found in a parasitic potato fungus as an anti-cancer drug.

Pillay is studying under a program to support science in developing countries, the Science Initiative Group (SIG) of the Carnegie Corporation-funded (U.S.) Institute for Advanced Study. He is one of the PhD students from sub-Saharan Africa in SIG's Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) and is studying at Johannesburg's Witwatersrand (Wits) University.

RISE has grouped scientists into networks relating to their research areas. Pillay's work falls under SABINA, the Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products.