Inspiring innovation from tradition

The Institute

The Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions is a 501(c)(3) organization devoted to fundamental research hosted by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Our Mission

Drug Discovery: Repurposing with a Difference

“There is widespread belief that current models of drug discovery and development need revamping and reinvention in order to make pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) more predictable, reliable, and less costly...”

—Mark S. Boguski, Kenneth D. Mandl, Vikas P. Sukhatme, in Science, June 12, 2009: 1394–1395

The Institute addresses a fundamental challenge in 21st century world: the need for new medicines and new strategies for the discovery of such medicines. Drawing on, and catalizing an interdisciplinary consortium of institutions worldwide, researchers in the Institute explore ancient books in libraries across the globe, bring to light and investigate their texts, and create on this basis a new knowledge that will ultimately lead to new discoveries and procedures for the integration of traditional resources into contemporary medical research.

Our Vision

Stabilize, consolidate, expand

The Institute is a young organization, born from the enthusiasm of its founders, and capitalizing on their research over the past decades. It needs now to transform this initial impetus into a more permanent structure, financially sustainable and stable. Appropriate funding will enable it to strengthen the current status of its executive staff and to attract competent collaborators. The Institute will formalize the relationships of its founders with a network of repositories of knowledge, laboratories, and experts. Through appearances in the media, presentations, and suitable communication, it will illustrate to a wider audience the new approach to, and understanding of, ancient medical knowledge that its founders have created through scholarly research. By linking medical tradition with contemporary medical needs in a creative association, it will suggest new avenues for fresh pharmacological investigations and innovative research strategies.

Core values and beliefs

The Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions stems out of the passion of Alain Touwaide and Emanuela Appetiti for the study of the therapeutic lore of ancient and contemporary traditional cultures. Both could not believe, contrary to a widely shared opinion, that ancient and traditional cultures invested energy, time, and resources in preserving formulas for medicines that were not efficacious. Following this intuition and capitalizing on their different yet complementary backgrounds—Touwaide is a classicist and Appetiti a cultural anthropologist— they patiently and tenaciously scrutinized ancient therapeutic literature, and understood that it encapsulates the results of experiments made by trial and error over centuries. By following the transmission of the ancient body of data all around the Mediterranean area, they threw a new light on its transformations, which result from constant mechanisms of adaptation to different natural and epidemiological environments, and not from scribes’ mistakes and misinterpretations. After pioneering works validating the intuitions and labor of Touwaide and Appetiti, medical research has begun to recognize the therapeutic value of herbs, and to appreciate that tradition may be a precious source of information for research. A realization of Touwaide’s and Appetiti’s life-long passion and dedication, the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions saves and records therapeutic traditions before they are lost, unlocks their information, and makes it available for new research, new applications, and even new strategies, with the firm conviction that today medicine cannot take the risk of ignoring such a wealth of time-tested therapies.

 

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