Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Purdue University

What is the name of your solution?

Natural Product Synthesis of Traditional Samoan Medicine

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Design an organic synthetic route to natural products found in traditional Samoan medicine to prevent depletion of the lands resources.

What specific problem are you solving?

1. Total synthesis of biologically relevant natural products for its global mass production 

To preserve the history of traditional medicine we can isolate natural products to expand scientific knowledge. Such scientific advancements have the potential to discover novel medicine that can treat antiviral, anticancer, and antibacterial diseases. The continuous emergence of biological diseases have an impact globally. Total synthesis constructs novel chemical pathways to achieve complex molecules with biological activity. Scientific investment in natural product synthesis will enhance the compatibility of science and traditional Samoan medicine. 

2. Preservation of the lands resources 

Traditional Samoan medicine can be explored for its biological activity without consumption of the lands resources. Elders in Samoa rely on the islands natural resources to heal the ill and injured. For many generation the people were dependent on the medicinal properties found in various plants and trees. Preservation of the lands resources is vital as the future is unpredictable with climate change and economical factors prevailing uncertain outcomes. 

3. Investigate traditional medicine to seek scientific advancements for the development of Samoan education 

Samoa suffered a major measles outbreaks in 2019 that resulted in 5,707 confirmed cases leading to 83 deaths. This tragedy would have been prevented if Samoans were vaccinated. The mistrust and miscommunication between the scientific community and Samoan people was a significant factor. The education system in Samoa is always seeking to improve its knowledge and connect its culture within the curriculum. Young adolescents learn the medicinal benefits of its land through elders growing up, however the scientific background of these vital plants and trees remain beyond the bounds of the educational curriculum.  The knowledge I seek to obtain from natural product synthesis will unravel the mysteries of traditional Samoan medicine connecting the natives to the scientific world. 

What is your solution?

Natural product total synthesis can overcome scarcity of natural resources, isolation of biologically active compounds, construction of complex molecules, and define unknown modes of action/biological activity.  

Traditional Samoan medicine can be explored for its biological activity without consumption of the lands resources. We can design a pathway through organic synthesis to construct natural products that are found in Samoan plants. The biological properties of these natural products can be enhanced by designing analogs to maximize potency. 

Simple molecular building blocks will be utilized to formulate natural products and extract the medicinal properties that generations of Samoan islanders have relied upon for years. We can analyze the complexity of the natural products to investigate its biological activity for the treatment of diseases. 

This solution will connect scientific knowledge to generations of traditional medicine the Samoan people have carried on within our traditional culture. Through organic synthesis these natural products can be formulated without impacting the lands resources and studied to impact medicine globally. 

Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit? In what ways will your solution benefit this community?

Preservation of the lands resources is vital to small islands as the main attraction for its economical stability is tourism and agricultural export. Designing synthetic molecules within the laboratory will sustain the islands resources. We are protecting Samoan nature by efficiently and cost effectively synthesizing biologically relevant natural products. 

By designing organic synthetic pathways to reproduce these molecules found in the land bearings its possible to connect the traditional medicinal values of the land to scientific knowledge. Total synthesis of natural products can inspire young adolescents to pursue a scientific education. Expanding upon the biological activity of traditional medicine can enlighten Samoan youth of its underlying value, yielding applicable knowledge to generations of history.

Discovery of potent analogs can broaden the global scope of medicinal science. These potent analogs have the potential to eradicate local and global diseases. Natural product synthesis of undiscovered molecules grant us the opportunity to meet the worlds medicinal demand.  

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

As a young adolescent growing up in Samoa, I observed the healing properties of plants and trees as elders would heal the ill and injured. The scientific properties of these traditions were never fully explained. I seek to unravel the knowledge that our people have carried on for generations and build upon the scientific advancements. My team and I are well equipped to tackle this problem as our research laboratory specializes in the total synthesis of natural products. 

These natural products can be synthesized across the world in large scale, without diminishing the natural resources of Samoa and conserving the communities medicinal traditions. 

Samoa's economy relies on tourism and agricultural exports. With this solution we are preventing the uptake in the lands medicinal resources as their abundance over time is unpredictable. This solution targets less uptake of natural resources and utilizes the technology of organic synthesis to reproduce the medicinal natural products that the land provides. This can build upon the knowledge of traditional medicine through a scientific stand point. 

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Lafayette, IN, USA

Our solution's stage of development:


How many people does your solution currently serve?

The people of Samoa

Why are you applying to Solve?

We are seeking financial support for chemical materials and equipment. The building blocks of organic chemistry are time consuming and require different chemical materials and tools to construct the natural products. 

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Financial (e.g. improving accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Josephine Bernard

Is the Team Lead a resident of the United States?


Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Drive positive outcomes for Native learners of any or all ages while supporting culturally grounded educational opportunities on and/or off reservations.

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Novelty, discovery, and complexity distinguish this solution from other pathways.

We can connect traditional Samoan medicine to scientific properties building upon the cultures knowledge. The natural products found in the land can be explored for its biological activity as well as other analogs that could impact medicine around the world. We expect this project to not only enhance the education of the Samoan islanders but also enlighten the world of its lands history. The medicinal properties of these synthesized natural products have the capability to impact the scientific community with analogs potentially more potent against viral and bacterial infections.  

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

The significant medicinal properties found within traditional Samoan medicine can be expanded upon and utilized world wide. These natural products within one year can be developed and synthesized efficiently. The next five years would be invested in synthesizing analogs to investigate their biological potency.

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Each step of the project will be quantified through proton and carbon nuclear magnetic resonance (HNMR and CNMR) as well as other analytical methods such as infrared spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, mass spectroscopy and other complex analytical instrumentations and methods.  

What is your theory of change?

Preservation of Samoan natural resources is expected as total synthesis utilizes organic synthesis to investigate biological potency of natural products. 

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Organic synthesis is built upon the knowledge of reactions to produce building blocks towards the complex molecule. Within the laboratory we are exploring the molecules that traditional Samoan medicine has identified as biologically active and isolating them through total synthesis. To identify the structures conformation we utilize proton and carbon nuclear magnetic resonance (HNMR and CNMR), infrared spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, mass spectroscopy and other analytical scopes. Every pathway utilized to synthesize natural products proceed through unique and complex reactions.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Imaging and Sensor Technology

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 15. Life on Land

In which states do you currently operate?

  • Indiana

In which states will you be operating within the next year?

  • Georgia
  • Indiana
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?


How many people work on your solution team?


How long have you been working on your solution?

6 years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

With this solution we seek to build upon the knowledge of traditional Samoan medicine with a scientific insight; to include the people of Samoa in the advancements of medicinal chemistry. 

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Natural product total synthesis of traditional Samoan medicine provides novel discoveries towards scarce medicinal resources, isolation of active molecules, and optimization of complex structures. 

Through chemistry innovation we are able to produce natural products without the uptake of the lands resources. We are preserving the land resources, connecting scientific knowledge to traditional medicine, and conserving the history of the land by isolating these natural products. 

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Organizations (B2B)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Through grants we will be able to invest in the future of natural product total synthesis.

Solution Team

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