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 Home / About Us > Dr John Arnason

Contact info

Dr John Thor Arnason
Gendron Hall
30, Marie Curie
Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5

Tel: 1-613-562-5262
Fax: 1-613-562-5765
E-mail: [email protected]

Link to Arnason Lab webpage


Research keywords

  • Drug Discovery
  • Phytochemistry
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Antidiabetic Plants
  • Natural Health Products
  • Nutraceuticals


John Thor Arnason, PhD
Professor of Biology

Biographical Sketch

John Arnason is Professor of Biology at the University of Ottawa and Associate Director of the Biopharmaceutical Sciences program. Arnason's interest in biologically active plants and their metabolites began with PDF projects on the ethnopharmacology of the Maya medicinal plants in Central America and biologically active natural products with Neil Towers at UBC in Vancouver. His laboratory was established at the University of Ottawa in 1980 and over 50 graduate students have completed theses in phytochemistry related fields since then. He has collaborated widely with Costa Rican, Mexican, W. African and Indonesian colleagues on discovery projects from tropical forests. Arnason has been active in the establishment of Natural Health Products field in Canada and has studied many North American species of interest to the herbal and nutraceutical industry. His group has been collaborating as the phytochemical laboratory with the CIHR Team in Aboriginal Antidiabetic Medicines led by Pierre Haddad. They have also collaborated extensively with the Vuksan laboratory at the University of Toronto on antidiabetic effects of ginseng.

Click here for pdf CV

Click here for PubMed listing

Research Interests

Knowledge of biologically active medicinal plant species in world floras is perhaps greatest among traditional healers. We are collaborating with groups of healers in various locations to better record and understand their pharmacopoeias, the biological activity of their plants and the cultural context of their traditional medicine. The use of antidiabetic, antimalarial anxiolytic and antiinflammatory plants is a focus of this research.

Legislation enacted in 2004 allows therapeutic use of botanical medicines in Canada yet our native medicinal flora remains largely unstudied. We are studying some native species of medicinal plants in detail for the first time to characterize their mode of action, to improve quality assurance, safety and efficacy as well as evaluate the potential of each species to produce harmful drug interactions. Our group is investigating in house new botanical drugs to treat preventable complications in diabetes, such as neuropathy, protein glycation and vascular degeneration. The newly constructed phytochemical facility at the University of Ottawa is used to identify and quantify active principles in the plants and in animal models using HPLC DAD/ELSD and HPLC/MS Qtrap. The facility allows study of variation in the phytochemical profiles of native germplasm, to develop cleaner and solvent free extracts through supercritical carbon dioxide extraction and to isolate specific groups of compounds for bioassay evaluation. In collaboration with the Haddad and Bennett labs, which have the advanced antidiabetic and neuroprotection assays, we isolate active principles by preparative HPLC and identify them by spectroscopic techniques.

� Montreal Diabetes Research Center 2012
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