P1 student receives grants for antimicrobial research with lichen

May 5, 2023

Student pharmacist Marvin Rositzki poses by his research poster, along with DKICP mentor Dr. Leng Chee Chang.

Marvin Rositzki was recently awarded a UH Hilo Seed Money travel grant to participate in the recent American Society of Microbiology meeting of the Hawaii chapter (HI-ASM), held at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH Mānoa on Oahu April 22. The first-year student presented a poster on a research project he co-authored with DKICP Professors Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit and Leng Chee Chang, titled “Antimicrobial properties of Lichen Cladonia skottbsbergii collected in Hawaii.”

Earlier this year, Rositzki also received a $2,500 research grant from the American Society of Pharmacognosy to conduct this research, which focused on studying the antibacterial activity of a lichen species that the student pharmacist originally found growing on the roof of his home in Mountain View, a Big Island community about 20 miles uphill from Hilo. The higher elevation and humid conditions there are apparently good for lichen growth, he explains.

In the lab, Rositzki used an organic solvent to produce an extract from the lichen, which was tested against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. “The results showed that two kinds of molecules within the lichen extract exhibit potent antimicrobial effects against clinical and locally isolated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).”

That’s significant because Hawaii has the highest prevalence of bacteria and MRSA infections in the nation, he explains. “Antibacterial compounds from lichen could help to control bacteria strains found in rural areas of the state.”

He plans to continue this research to isolate and identify the antibacterial properties of these compounds, and determine their potency with minimum inhibition concentration values.

“We were fortunate to have the help of retired UH Manoa botany professor, Dr. Clifford Smith, in identifying this lichen species as Cladonia skottbsbergii,” notes Chang, one of Rositzki’s DKICP mentors. “Dr. Smith is a world-renowned lichen expert, and Marvin and I were able to meet him at the recent HI-ASM meeting on Oahu.

“Participating in the HI-ASM meeting and presenting his research gave Marvin the opportunity to enhance his writing and oral communication skills as he interacted with other academics and industry professionals, and to network with others,” she notes.

“Our goal is to provide student pharmacists with opportunities for hands-on research project experience,” adds Wongwiwatthananukit. “Students learn through active learning, writing proposals, implementing the project, writing reports, discussing results, solving problems and making progress over time. This helps them fulfill Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education outcomes and standards, including competency in problem solving, interprofessional collaboration, communication, and personal and professional development.”

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