Giant Salvinia, the curse of East Texas lakes, is actually building a reputation for SFA's National Center for Pharmaceutical Crops.
"Yes, that true." said director Dr. Shiyou Li. The research team he leads has already discovered Salvinia compounds slow down lung and pancreatic cancer cells in humans. By accident, they discovered Salvinia can also kill itself.
"We didn't intend to do this," the research professor said with a smile.
This is what happened. Test trays of Salvinia kept dying. Researchers took a closer look. They isolated the compound in Salvinia believed to be causing the suicidal demise. Then they easily placed it on healthy plants.
"You see after a few weeks. All the plants die," pointed out Li with his ever handy classroom pointer.
After a few weeks the decay disappears and the water is so clear Dr Li's reflection is seen in the water.
Li coined the term "endocide" to refer to the all natural killing agents found in Salvinia and other plants.
Now for the second discovery. The endocide doesn't kill other plants.
"Flowers still there and still blooming and some other plants are still growing fine," said Li, who expects the discovery will easily pass Environmental Protection Agency scrutiny.
Li actually wanted the endocide to kill hydrilla, another troublesome aquatic plant that hangs with Salvinia. It doesn't, but other herbicides do.
No loss. "We found it very promising," Li said.
Potential commercial partners are showing lots of interest in this new approach of controlling giant Salvinia.
Patent application process continues for the Salvinia cancer drug.
Meanwhile, EPA approval on the Salvinia control method is underway. This will allow more widespread testing in different environments and regions