Research Groups: Drug Discovery and Natural Products Research

Herbal medicines (now widely known as Natural Products and Nutraceuticals) have been the oldest form of healthcare. For centuries, natural products have been a major source of new drugs and drug leads. By the middle of the 19th century at least 80 % of all medicines were derived from herbs. According to a recent survey by Newman et al (J Nat Prod 2003,  66: 1022), 61% of the 877 small-molecule new chemical entities introduced as drugs worldwide during 1981-2002 can be traced to or were inspired by natural products.During the last one decade or two, there has been revival in the use of herbal products in their crude form (botanicals), a revival which is so dramatic that the annual global sale of herbal products is over US $ 100 billions. According to WHO estimates over three-quarters of world population depends on botanicals for prevention and cure of all kinds of diseases.

The Drug Discovery and Natural Product Research group at the Aga Khan University has been operational for over 15 years. The major strength of the group lies on the dedicated group of graduate students; at present 8 students are working for their M.Phil/Ph.D degrees. Furthermore, several elective students from AKU and from other Institutions get research exposure every year. The continuing work on the wide range of activities has resulted in publications in a variety of international peer-reviewed journals particularly in the area of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal pharmacology including liver disorders. The work has led to the identification of novel plants and plant derived constituents interacting with muscarinic receptors and calcium channels.  In addition, the group is actively working on the medicinal value of food plants including clinical studies on dietary supplements, such as vitamin C as well as engaged in searching for synergistic and/or side-effects nullifying combinations. The group has gained international recognition and attracted a large number of collaborations both at national and international level as well as sizeable funding from different sources.


Studies on:

  • Cholinerigics and Muscarinic receptor subtypes;

  • Antihypertensive/Diuretics;

  • Cardiotonic;

  • Hepatoprotectives;

  • GI Prokinetic, Laxative and Anthelmintic;

  • Antispasmodic/Antidiarroeals/Antiamoebic;

  • Neuropharmacology;

  • Antifungal/Antibacterial;

  • Antiasthmatic/Bronchodilator;

  • Antiinflammatory/Antiplatelet;

  • Antidiabetic/Antilipemic/Antioxidant;

  • Pharmacognostic/Phytochemical studies;

Medicinal value of food plants and dietary supplements and others.


  • Investigation of antihypertensive activity of indigenous medicinal plantNational Scientific Research & Development Board of Pakistan (1991-94).

  • Study on the indigenous medicinal plants 
    HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi (1991-97)

  • Investigation on hepatoprotective constituents from indigenous medicinal plants High Noon Laboratories Ltd., Lahore. (1992-94).

  • Studies on selective spasmolytic constituents from Brassica compestrisseed The Aga Khan University Seed Grant (1996-98)

  • Phytochemical and pharmacological investigations of constituents ofDaucus carota, International Foundation for Science, SWE DEN (1996-98).

  • Studies on calcium channel blocking activity of indigenous medicinal plants Pakistan Science Foundation (2002-2005).

  • Development of purified extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa as an adjunct treatment for cardiovascular diseases, Collaboration with Dr Rais Mustafa of the University of Malaya, funded by Ministry of Science & Technology, Malaysia (2003-2005)

  • Lead detoxifying potential of Vitamin C in adults. Higher Education Commission (2004-2005)

  • Distinguished National Professorship Research Allowance, Higher Education Commission, Government of Pakistan (2004 - 2006)

  • Urolithiatic activity of medicinal plants. Higher Education Commission (HEC) scholarship grant to Ms Samra Bashir (PhD scholar at AKU) (2004-2008)

  • Pharmacological studies on the presence of antihypertensive combinations in indigenous plants. Higher Education Commission (HEC) scholarship grant to Ms Qaiser Jabeen (PhD scholar), (2004-2006)

  • Active Scientist Research Grant , Pakistan Science Foundation , 2005-2006.

  • Studies on pharmacological basis for the use of ispaghol in constipation and diarrhea. Pakistan Medical Research Council (2006-2007).

  • Studies on the lead detoxifying effect of ascorbic acid in urban adolescent population. Pakistan Science Foundation (2006-2007)

  • Investigation of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet activities in indigenous medicinal plants. Pakistan Science Foundation, 2005-2007, Co-investigator with Dr Saeed of the Punjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research, Karachi

  • The effect of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) therapy on in vitro gall bladder smooth muscle contractility. Pakistan Science Foundation (2006-2008). Co-investigator with Dr Hasnain Ali Shah , Dept. of Medicine, Aga Khan University , Karachi






Abdul Jabbar Shah

Research Officer and PhD Scholar


Nauman Aziz

PhD Scholar


Samra Bashir

PhD Scholar and HEC Scholarship recipient


Arifullah Khan

Research Associate and MPhil/PhD Scholar


Touqeer Ahmed

PhD Scholar


Ozma Fazal Khan

Research Associate and MPhil Scholar


Ishfaq Bukhari

Post-Doctoral Fellow


Intsar Hussain Taqvi  

Post-Doctoral Fellow





          Drug Discovery and Natural Products Research


Alumni And Collaborators:

  • Muhammad Nabeel Ghayur (MPhil, 2002; PhD 2005), Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Medicine, McMaster University , Hamilton L8N 4A6 , Ontario , Canada

  • Ms Qaiser Jabeen (MPhil, 2001, PhD 2005), Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy, Islamia University, Bahawalpur

  • Dr Sheikh Yaeesh (MPhil, 2005), Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Ziauddin Medical University , Clifton , Karachi

  • Dr SIH Taqvi (PhD 2003) Assistant Professor, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, Karachi

  • Dr Zahid A Butt (MSc 2002), Epidemiologist, WHO Office, National Institute of Health, Islamabad

  • Dr Khalid Aftab, (PhD 1996) Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and 
    Therapeutics, Foundation University Medical College , Rawalpindi

Collaborators Within The Aga Khan University:

Dr Sohail Qureshi

Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dr Kashif Majid

Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dr Dileep Rohra   

Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dr Abdul Saeed  

Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dr Arif Siddiqui

Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dr John Connor

Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dr Viqar Zaman  

Department of Microbiology and Pathology

Dr Waris Qidwai   

Department of Family Medicine

Dr Hasnain A Shah 

Department of Medicine

Dr Tazeen Jafar    

Department of Medicine and Community Health Sciences

Dr Shahla Siddiqui  

Department of Anaesthesia

Collaborators within Pakistan

  • Dr M. Shoaib Akhtar, Meritorious Professor of Pharmacology and Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Agriculture , Faisalabad

  • Dr Zafar Iqbal, Associate Professor and Chairman, Department of Parasitology, University of Agriculture , Faisalabad

  • Dr Zafar Iqbal, Professor, Department of Pharmacy, University of Peshawar , Peshawar

  • Prof Ghulam Ali Qureshi, Director Research, Liaquat University of Health Sciences, Jamshoro

  • Dr Fazal-e-Subhan, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacy, University of Peshawar , Peshawar .

  • Dr Shahida Perveen, Professor of Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Karachi

  • Dr Rafiq Alam Khan, Associate Professor and Head of Pharmacology Department, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Karachi

  • Prof Sheikh Arshad Saeed, Dr Punjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research, International Center for Chemical Sciences, University of Karachi, Karachi

Prof Mudassir Israr Zaidi, Department of Botany, University of Balochistan , Quetta

HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry,  International Center for Chemical Sciences, University of Karachi, Karachi

  • Prof Atta-ur-Rahman, (Director)

  • Prof M. Iqbal Chaudhary (Acting Director)

  • Prof Viqar-uddin Ahmed                   

  • Prof Bina S. Siddiqui                

  • Dr Shaheen Faizi                    

  • Dr Sabira Begum

Dr Farzana Shaheen

Overseas Collaborators

  • Dr Peter J. Houghton, Editor, Journal of Ethnopharmacology and Professor of Pharmacognosy, Department of Pharmacy, King's College London , UK

  • Dr M. Rais Mustafa, Associate Professor and Acting Head, Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • Dr Evangeline C. Amor, Assistant Professor, Institute of Chemistry , University of the Philippines , Quezon City , Philippines

  • Dr Mustafa Ali Mohammad, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • Prof Bilge Sener, Director, Institute of Pharmacy , Gazi University , Ankara , Turkey

  • Prof Dr Joachim W. Herzig, President, University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Dr Shabbir Ahmed Tariq, Associate Professor, University Sabah , Malaysia

Recent Publications

  • Gilani AH, Atta-ur-Rahman. Trends in Ethnopharmacology. J Ethnopharmacol 2005; 100: 43-49 (perspective article for a special issue of the journal on completion of its 100 volumes)

  • Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. Ginger lowers blood pressure through blockade of voltage-dependent calcium channels. J Cardiovas Pharmacol 2005; 45, 74-80.

  • Gilani AH, Shah AJ, Ghayur MN, Majeed K. Pharmacological basis of for the use of turmeric in gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders. Life Sci 2005; 76/26: 3089-3105.

  • Malik F, Hussain S, Dil AS, Hannan A, Gilani AH.  Islamic Republic of Pakistan., Chapter 22, In: WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2005; (Map volume), Editors: C.K. Ong, G. Bodeker, C. Grundy, G. Burford, K. Shein,  World Health Organization, Geneva, pp. 165-169 (book chapter)

  • Gilani AH, Ghayur MN, Khalid A, Zaheer-ul-Haq, Choudhary MI, Atta-ur-Rahman. Presence of antispasmodic, antidiarrhoeal, antisecretory, calcium antagonist and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory steroidal alkaloids inSarcococca saligna. Planta Medica 2005; 71: 120-125.

  • Ghayur MN, Gilani AH, Houghton P. Species differences in the gut stimulatory effects of radish seeds. J Pharmac and Pharmacol 2005; 79: 1493-1501.

  • Choudhary MI, Nawaz SA, Zaheer-ul-Haq, Azim MK, Ghayur MN, Lodhi MA, Jalil S, Khalid A, Ahmed A, Rode BM, Atta-ur-Rahman, Gilani AH, Ahmad VU. Juliflorine: a potent natural#BM peripheral anionic-site- binding inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase with calcium-channel blocking potential, a leading candidate for Alzheimer's disease therapy. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005; 332: 1171-1179.

  • Rohra DK, Sharif H, Zuberi H, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH.  Acidosis-induced relaxation of human mammary artery is due to activation of ATP-sensitive potassium channels. Eur J Pharmacol 2005; 514: 175-181.

  • Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. Pharmacological basis for the use of Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders. Diges Dis Sci 2005; 50: 1889-1897.

  • Choudhary MI, Nawaz SA, Zaheer-ul-Haq, Lodhi MA,  Ghayur MN, Jalil S, Riaz N, Yousuf S, Malik A, Rode BM, Gilani AH, Atta-ur-Rahman. Withanolides, a new class of natural cholinesterase inhibitors with calcium antagonistic properties. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005; 334: 276-287

  • Gilani AH. Role of medicinal plants in modern medicine. Malay J Sci 2005; 24: 1-5 (review article).

  • Amor EC, Villaseñora IM, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH, Choudhary MI. Spasmolytic flavonoids from Syzygium samarangense (Blume) Merr. & L.M. Perry. Zeit Natur c 2005; 60: 67-71.

  • Gilani AH, Jabeen Q, Ghayur MN, Janbaz KH, Akhtar MS. Studies on the antihypertensive, antispasmodic, bronchodilator and hepatoprotective activities of the Carum copticum seed extract. J Ethnopharmacol 2005; 98:127-135.

  • Gilani AH, Yaeesh S, Jamal Q, Ghayur MN. Hepatoprotective activity of aqueous-methanol extract of Artemisia vulgaris. Phytother Res 2005; 19: 170-172.

  • Butt ZA, Gilani AH, Nanan D, Sheikh AL, White F. Quality of Pharmacies in Pakistan: A Cross-sectional Survey. Int J Quality Health Care 2005; 17: 307-313.

  • Gilani AH, Bashir S, Janbaz KH, Khan A. Pharmacological basis for the use of Fumaria indica in constipation and diarrhea. J Ethnopharmacol 2005; 96: 585-589.

  • Gilani AH, Khan A, Shah AJ, Jabeen Q, Subhan F, Ghafar R. Antispasmodic and blood pressure lowering effects of Valeriana wallichii are mediated through K+ channel activation J Ethnopharmacol 2005; 100: 347-352.

  • Gilani AH, Ghayur MN. Ginger: from myths to reality. In: Gottschalk-Batsschkus, C.E., Green, J.C. (Eds.), Ethnotherapies in the cycle of life - Books on Demand/Ethnomed Institut für Ethnomedizin e.V., Munich, 2005 pp. 307-315 (book chapter). 

  • Gilani AH, Ghayur MN. The betel nut chewing culture. In: Gottschalk-Batsschkus CE, Green JC (Eds.), Ethnotherapies in the cycle of life - Books on Demand/Ethnomed Institut für Ethnomedizin e.V., Munich, 2005 pp. 287-294 (book chapter).

  • Gilani AH. Role of ethnopharmacology in the development of modern medicine. In: Shinwar ZK, Watanabe T, Ali M, Anwar R (Eds.) Proceedings of the International Symposium on Medicinal Plants: Linkages beyond national boundaries,  Al-Aziz Communications, Peshawar 2005; pp. 192-197.

  • Ghayur MN, Gilani AH, Afridi MB, Houghton PJ. Cardiovascular effects of ginger aqueous extract and its phenolic constituents are mediated through multiple pathways. Vascular Pharmacol 2005; 43(4): 234-241.

  • Gilani AH, Ghayur MN, Houghton PJ, Jabeen Q, Kazim SF, Jumani MI, Saeed SA. Studies on the hypotensive, cardio-suppressant, vasodilator and antiplatelet activities of betel nut crude extract and its constituents. Int J Pharmacol 2006; 2 (1): 33-41

  • Gilani AH, Bukhari I, Khan RA, Farman-ullah, Ahmad VU. Cholinomimetic and calcium channel blocking activities of Carthamus oxycanth. Phytother Res 2005; 19: 679-683

  • Gilani AH, Bashir S, Janbaz KH, Shah AJ. Presence of cholinergic and calcium channel blocking activities explains the traditional use of Hibiscus rosasinensis in constipation and diarrhea. J Ethnopharmacol 2005; 102: 289-294.

  • Saeed SA, Urfi MZS, Ali TM, Khimani FW, Gilani AH.  Antioxidants: their role in health and disease. Int J Pharmacol 2005; 1: 210-217 (review article).

  • Iqbal Z, Lateef M, Jabbar A, Ghayur, MN, Gilani AH. In vitro and in vivo anthelmintic activity of Nicotiana tabacum L. leaves against gastrointestinal nematodes of sheep. Phytother Res 2005; 19: (in press).

  • Gilani AH, Khan A, Subhan F, Khan M.  Antispasmodic and bronchodilator activities of St. John's Wort are putatively mediated through dual inhibition of calcium influx and phosphodiesterase.  Fund Clin Pharmacol 2005; 19: (in press)

  • Khalid A, Ghayur MN, Mesaik MA, Kalauni SK, Atta-ur-Rahman, Gilani AH, Manandhar MD, Choudhary MI. Sarcorucinine-D: a noncompetitive cholinesterases inhibitor that blocks β-amyloid binding sites and calcium channels. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005 (in press).

  • Iqbal Z, Lateef M, Jabbar A, Ghayur, MN, Gilani AH. In vivo anthelmintic activity of Butea monosperma against trichostrongylid nematodes in sheep. Fitoterapia 2005 (in press)

  • Gilani, AH, Khan A, Shah AJ, Jabeen Q. Blood pressure lowering effect of olives is mediated through calcium channel blockade. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2005 (in press)

  • Begum S, Hassan SI, Siddiqui BS, Ifzal R, Perwaiz S, Kiran T, Shaheen F, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH.  Preparation, Structure and Spasmolytic Activity of Some Derivatives of Harmine Series of Alkaloids. J Nat Prod 2005; (in press).

  • Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. Radish seed extract mediates its cardiovascular inhibitory effects via muscarinic receptor activation. Fund Clin Pharmacol2005 (in press).

  • Ghayur MN, Gilani AH, Khan A, Amor EC, Villaseñor IM, Choudhary MI. Presence of calcium antagonist activity explains the use of Syzygium samarangense in diarrhea. Phytother Res 2005 (in press).

  • Gilani, AH, Khan, A, Ghayur, MN. Calcium antagonist and cholinomimetic activities in rabbits explains the medicinal uses of olives in gut disorders. Nut Res 2005 (in press)

  • Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. Gastrointestinal stimulatory and uterotonic activities of dietary radish leaves extract are mediated through multiple pathways. Phytother Res 2005; 19: 750-755.

  • Iqbal Z, Lateef M, Akhtar MS, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. In vivo anthelmintic activity of ginger against gastrointestinal nematodes of sheep. J Ethnopharmacol 2005; (in press)

  • Atta-ur-Rahman, Khalid A, Sultana N, Ghayur MN, Mesaik MA, Khan MR, Gilani AH, Choudhary MI. New natural cholinesterase inhibiting and calcium channels blocking quinoline alkaloids. J Enz Inhib Med Chem 2005; (in press)  

  • Taqvi SIH, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH, Aftab MT, Saify ZS. Synthesis, spasmolytic, cardio-suppressant, vasodilator and Ca++ antagonist activities of 1-[4´-methylphenacyl]-4-acetyl -4-phenylpiperidinium bromide. Pak J Biol Sci 2005; 8: (in press)

  • Taqvi SIH, Aftab MT, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH, Saify ZS. Synthesis and pharmacological screening of 1-(2´, s4´-dimethoxyphenacyl)-4-hydroxy-4-phenylpiperidinium bromide. Int J Pharmacol 2005; 2: (in press)

  • Taqvi SIH, Aftab MT, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH, Saify ZS. Synthesis and biological evaluation of 1-(2´, 4´-dimethoxyphenacyl)-4-acetyl-4-phenylpiperidinium bromide in intestinal and cardiovascular tissues. J Pharmacol Toxicol 2005; (In press) 


Antihypertensive composition containing thiocarbamate glycoside from Moringa oleifera.

  • Shaheen Faizi, B.S. Siddiqui, A.H. Gilani and R., Saleem,

  • Pakistan Patent (1997), Patent Application No. 872/98 (25-8-98), S.I. No.136438.

Antihypertensive medicine Brassico, based on Brassica rapa sb. sp.     campestris. A.H.

  • Gilani, Irfanullah, F. Shaheen, S. Bibi, and Shaheen Faizi

  • Pakistan Patent (1998). Patent Application No. 871/98 (25-8-98), S.I. No. 136437.

More Papers (Related to specific areas of research)


For queries, questions and possibility to work please write to the Group Leader:

Dr. Anwarul Hassan Gilani
HEC Distinguished National Professor
Dept. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
The Aga Khan University, Medical College  
Karachi-74800, Pakistan  
Tel: (92-21) 486-4571; Fax: (92-21) 493-4294/493-2095