Alkaloid Research Group

Our team is conducting research into alkaloids which have been identified initially in daffodils and some have already confirmed their potential as active pharmaceutical ingredients (API); galanthamine has been approved for early and moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease treatment since 2001; other, such as narciclasine and haemanthamine have anti-cancer, anti-leukemia or anti-inflammatory properties, therefore isolation these chemicals from daffodil biomass gives a new industrial biotechnology use for a non-food crop.

The aim of this research group is to provide information on the alkaloid profile of a wide range of genetic diversity, good agricultural practices and chemical extraction efficiency etc to secure the supply chain of daffodils for the UK Pharmaceutical industry which will lead to establishment of sustainable and scalable production of galanthamine and other alkaloids such as Lycorine molecule, which is now being assessed for its potential to limit the spread and distribution of the Covid-19 virus. If the drug could successfully pass the clinical trials it is not only benefit people in the UK, but globally, to control the Covid-19 virus.

Key staff 

  • Dr Xianmin Chang

Existing projects / collaborations: 

  • China – UK Newton Fund, Environmentally Benign Combination Biopesticides: Transforming Pest Control in Chinese and UK agriculture (Greenwich University, AgroPy (UK) Ltd ). Jan 2019 – Jan 2022 (Consultant / Advisor), £1.2 million, (RAU share 40K) Co-PI
  • Research consultant for TSB/BBSRC (Agri-Tech Catalyst, Industrial Research Award, Round 2) “Yellow Gold: Innovative systems for sustainable daffodil-derived galanthamine production in the uplands”. (Collaboration among Agroceutical Products Ltd, Aberystwyth University & Harper Adams University), £1.339 million, from March 2015 to September 2020. Co-PI
  • Coordinator of BBSRC / Defra LINK Project, Link Ref: LK0858 (£1.155million) Agronomic Processes to optimize galanthamine content of daffodil biomass (AGROGAL). (NIAB, Bangor University, Velcourt Ltd, New Generation Daff, AgriSense & Agroceutical Products Ltd, RAU involved later)) (Oct 2011 – Sept 2016), PI. http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=BB%2FJ003794%2F1
  • HVCfP Network (supported by BBSRC, £18 Million in total, 2014 - 2019), BIV Project; Assessment and Optimization of Microwave Assisted Extraction (MAE) of Galanthamine and other Alkaloids from Daffodils for the UK Pharmaceutical Industry, (2014 - 2015) (£5K for lab trials), PI. https://bbsrc.ukri.org/documents/1509-bbsrc-nibb-newsletter-pdf/
  • Effect of bulb planting orientation on the Content of Galanthamine and other Alkaloids of Daffodils, BSc student dissertation project supported by Kildare (£5K) (2017 – 2018) Co-PI
  • Effect of microwave assisted extraction and cold treatment on the content of galanthamine and other alkaloids of daffodils, MSc student project supported by APL (£5K) (2016 – 2017) Co-PI
  • Effect of Bud Pencil Stage Flower Picking on the Content of Galanthamine and other Alkaloids of Daffodils, BSc student dissertation project supported by Kildare (£10K) (2015 – 2016), Co-PI
  • A transcriptomics approach to understanding polymorphic and transcript level differences linked to isoquinoline alkaloid production in triploid varieties of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, BBSRC PhD Case Study (£70K) (2011 – 2015), I am the PhD supervisor. (registered with Liverpool University, and PhD was awarded in July 2015)
  • Transcriptomic and tissue culture approaches for production of Amaryllidaceae alkaloids, British Council PhD research grant (£70K) (2013 – 2017), I am the PhD supervisor (Registered with Liverpool University, successfully passed the Viva in April 2017)
  • Heath Foundation, Development of daffodil alkaloid extraction protocol and HPLC and GC/MS quantification (2011 – 2017) (Set up lab at Liverpool University), £210K, PI

Project application under review:

  • Innovate UK-China: Precision for Enhancing Agricultural Productivity, Zero carbon CEA crops to balance seasonal demand (application ref: 116842-671190), two year project, £1.2 million, RAU shares £225K. PI
  • Innovate UK, Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption, APL Covid-19, 3 month project (June to Oct 2020). £50K. Agroceutical Product Ltd, and RAU. PI

Postdoc Research Associate Supervision

  • Dr. Leon Civale, is between 2013 and 2016, and research into daffodil for alkaloid production for BBSRC / DEFRA AGROGAL Link project
  • Prof Benhua SUN, from Northwest Agricultural and Forest University, China in April 2016 for a year and research into soil and environmental science

PhD Students

  • Miss Caitlin Willis, Investigating the status of pyrethroid resistance in UK populations of the cabbage stem flea beetle (Psylliodes chrysocephala) (2018 – 2021)

PhD Graduates

  • Dr Jane Pulman, A transcriptomics approach to understanding polymorphic and transcript level differences linked to isoquinoline alkaloid production in triploid varieties of Narcissus pseudonarcissus
  • Dr Aleya Ferdausi researching the biosynthesis of alkaloids in Narcissus
  • Dr Syed Shah, Effect of input (fertilizers, growth regulators & fungicides) on growth and grain quality of Bere, a barley landrace
  • Dr Elizabeth J. Barron, Quantitative analysis of active compounds found in Arnica montana and Arnica chamissonis in relation to varied provenance, environmental and agronomic factors

Recent selected publications

Forthcoming publications (3 papers under review)

  • Ferdausi A, Chang X, Hall A and Jones M. 2020. Relative expression of putative genes involved in alkaloid production in Narcissus field and in vitro tissues using semi-quantitative RT-PCR, under review, Gene
  • Caitlin Willis, Stephen P. Foster, Christoph T. Zimmer, Jan Elias, Ralf Nauen, Xianmin Chang, Linda M. Field, Martin S. Williamson & T.G. Emyr Davies. 2020. Investigating the status of pyrethroid resistance in UK populations of the cabbage stem flea beetle (Psylliodes chrysocephala), under review, Crop Protection
  • Fraser, Mariecia; Vallin, Hannah; Davies, John; Rowlands, Gareth; Chang, Xianmin, 2020. Integrating Narcissus-derived galanthamine production into traditional upland farming systems, under review, Plants, People, Planet