The use of turmeric, commonly known as 'haldi' in India, is versatile. From its use in daily cooking to its role in wedding rituals, turmeric is an indispensable spice for us. And speaking of its medicinal value, turmeric has gained worldwide attention. Our very own haldi milk has metamorphosed into 'Turmeric Latte' and is being relished by health freaks in various countries. The wonderful qualities of turmeric had been explored centuries ago. Regarded as a symbol of prosperity, ancient Indians used turmeric as a cleansing herb. Traditional physicians in China used it to stop bleeding, treat chest congestion and to relieve menstrual discomforts. In Biblical times, due to its unusual note, turmeric was also used as a perfume!
In modern medical science with extensive research on turmeric, many of its medicinal properties have come to light. Building upon this, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute, Thiruvananthapuram has developed a technology that uses 'curcumin fibrin wafer' to target malignant cancer cells. Curcumin which is extracted from turmeric is well known for its anti-cancer properties but has low bioavailability and degrades quickly in the body. This technology uses a sustained delivery system that delivers curcumin to the targeted cancer cells with the help of a biomaterial that not only helps to form a stable configuration but also facilitates entry of curcumin into the cancer cells. The sustained delivery system was granted US patent in 2018 while in India, the application is under process. The institute is now looking for a partner for the transfer of technology and further commercialization. Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute is an institution of national importance under the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India. Actively involved in path-breaking research, the institute has already transferred several devices or biomaterials in the last three years and plans on transferring at least 34 new technologies within the next five to seven years.
Turmeric has been used for centuries by its people for various purposes. The knowledge about this herb is so common that it’s not possible to pass the patentability test for novelty with regard to most of its uses. For example- in 1995, two researchers of the University of Mississippi Medical Center were granted a patent for use of turmeric powder to heal wounds and ulcers. However, India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), promptly challenged the same and argued that turmeric had been used for eras by people for its wound healing properties, and thus the invention lacked the ‘novelty ‘ criterion. Finally, the patent was withdrawn. However, developing technology like the one discussed above opens up doors for further research on this topic and also exploring new uses of this wonder herb.