Director of the Kew Innovation Unit, Deputy Keeper and Head of Sustainable Uses of Plants Group
- BSc (Hons), Univ. Leeds
- PhD, Birkbeck College, Univ. London
- Fellow Royal Society of Entomology
- Fellow World Innovation Foundation
- Fellow of the Society of Biology
- Fellow of the Linnean Society
- Editor-in-Chief, Biochemical Systematics and Ecology
- Editorial Board, Phytochemistry, Phytotherapy Research, Physiological Entomology, Journal of Tropical Medicinal Plants, Natural Product Communications
- Visiting Professor, Birkbeck College University of London, University of Greenwich and School of Pharmacy University of London
Sustainable uses of plants; medicinal plants; plant-insect interactions; natural products, fungi, bio-control, economic botany, ethnobotany.
As Director of the Kew Innovation Unit I lead the co-ordination of cross-directorate projects that generate income for Kew through the utilisation of the breath of expertise that Kew staff have in different aspects of plant science and horticulture, based on their research of the diversity of the Kew collections.
My personal scientific research is focused on the research undertaken by the Sustainable Uses of Plants group. This includes research into the economic uses of plants and fungi, their potential as pharmaceutical and agrochemical leads, and as sources of sustainably-harvested products. This involves not only studying the chemistry of plants and fungi, the biological activities (eg diabetes, anti-microbial, HIV, anti-malarial, Alzheimer’s disease cancer, insecticidal, antifeedants and anti-inflammatory) of extracts and isolated compounds and using the new DNA based phylogenies to assist guide the selection of species, but also working with those growing the plants.
The group also develops chemical authentication methods for use by companies, NGO’s, government bodies and by field workers to check the quality of plant-derived products being sold as medicines, cosmetics and functional foods. These projects often involve the development of practical aspects of benefit-sharing strategies with commercial and other collaborators that support plant conservation in developing countries.
I have a keen research interest in furthering our understanding of the role plant-derived compounds play in plant-animal interactions, especially their role in the host selection behaviour of insects. This basic ecological knowledge can assist identification of plant-derived compounds that have use in pest control as well as in pharmaceutical research.
Furthering our knowledge about the historical uses and potential new uses of plants assists support plant conservation and it is vital that there is dissemination of this knowledge in ways that engage with the public, especially the young. The majority of the work of this group is funded through research grants and commercial contracts.
Michl, J., Ingrouille, M. J., Simmonds, M. S. J. Heinrich, M. (2014). Naturally occurring aristolochic acid analogues and their toxicities. Natural Product Reports 31: 676-693.
Prescott, T.A., Panaretou, B., Veitch, N.C., Simmonds, M.S.J. (2014). A yeast chemical genetics approach identifies the compound 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzyl isothiocyanate as a calcineurin inhibitor. FEBS Letters 588: 455–458.
Kite, G.C., Larsson, S., Veitch, N.C., Porter, E.A., Ding, N. & Simmonds, M.S.J. (2013). Acyl spermidines in inflorescence extracts of elder (Sambucus nigra L., Adoxaceae) and elderflower drinks. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 61: 3501–3508.
Michl, J., Jennings, H. M., Kite, G. C., Ingrouille, M. J., Simmonds, M. S. J., Heinrich, M. (2013). Is aristolochic acid nephropathy a widespread problem in developing countries? A case study of Aristolochia indica L. in Bangladesh using an ethnobotanical-phytochemical approach. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 149: 235–244.
Chan, K., Shaw, D., Simmonds, M. S. J., Leon, C. J., Xu, Q., Lu, A., Sutherland, I. Ignatova, S., Zhu, Y-P.,Verpoorte, R.,Williamson, E. M., Duez, P. (2012). Good practice in reviewing and publishing studies on herbal medicine, with special emphasis on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese Materia Medica Journal of Ethnopharmacology 140: 469-475.