Research Spotlight: The Center for Antimicrobial Products

By Ramesh Velupillaimani, PhD

Antimicrobial lab work

By Katie Farrell
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Infectious diseases are the cause of millions of deaths, especially in third-world countries. One-half of the deaths in developing countries are caused by infectious diseases. These deaths would be prevented if there were affordable and effective novel medicines to treat diseases (Elisha, et al).

The number of emerging infectious diseases has increased significantly over the past few decades and are predominantly zoonoses that have developed in nature, such as the Ebola virus. Half of the occurrences of emerging infectious diseases are caused by bacteria, most of which have gained antibiotic resistance (Jones, et al). Bacteria are able to mutate into strains that do not respond to antibiotics (Newman, et al).

American Southwestern desert plants have previously been used as medicinal treatments by indigenous people and in naturopathic practices. Bursera microphylla, commonly known as Elephant Tree, is an immune stimulant that enhances the activity of phagocytosis, which will inhibit the colonization of bacteria (Moore). The use of the antibiotics with a concentrated pomegranate extract showed an increase in the activity of the antibiotics against the resistant strain of staphylococcus aureus, the causative agent of MRSA (Newman, et al).  

The Center for Antimicrobial Products is currently conducting research on Southwestern desert plants that show antimicrobial properties. The usage of Southwestern desert plants as an antimicrobial treatment is promising. If an affordable and effective method is produced using these bacterial inhibitory plants, thousands of lives will be saved.

The College of Science, Engineering and Technology offers research opportunities for students studying our STEM programs. Learn more by visiting our website or contacting us using the Request More Information button.


  • Elisha IL, Botha FS, McGaw LJ, and Eloff JN. (2017). The antibacterial activity of extracts of nine plant species with good activity against Escherichia coli against five other bacteria and cytotoxicity of extracts. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 17:133.
  • Jones KE, Patel NG, Levy MA, Storeygard A, Balk D, Gittleman JL, and Daszak P. (2008). Global trends in emerging infectious diseases. Nature 451:990-993.
  • Moore M. 1989. Medicinal plants of the desert and canyon west. New Mexico: Museum of New Mexico Press.
  • Newman RA, Lansky EP, Block ML. (2007). Pomegranate: the most medicinal fruit. California: Basic Health Publications, Inc. p 28-29.

More About Dr. Velupillaimani:

Ramesh Velupillaimani, PhD, is a professor of biosciences in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Grand Canyon University. He received his PhD in microbiology and was awarded with the prestigious Lady Davis Fellowship to work as a post-doctoral research associate at the Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Before he joined Grand Canyon University, Dr. Velupillaimani held a research assistant professor position at the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis at Arizona State University. His research interests focused on the molecular mechanism of photosynthetic energy transduction. He has developed many biological techniques including a simple detection medium for dermatophytic fungi, a novel technique to purify photosynthetic membrane proteins from cyanobacteria and green algae and a simple technique for chloroplast transformation in eukaryotic green alga chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Dr. Velupillaimani holds membership in the following professional societies: American Chemical Society and American Society for Advancement of Sciences. He has contributed three chapters in the Methods in Molecular Biology series and Humana Press USA, along with a chapter in advances in photosynthesis and respiration. He is the author of several research papers published in top national and international journals and books. In addition to teaching, Dr. Velupillaimani oversees the research program in the Center for Antimicrobial Products at GCU.

More About Katie:

Katie Farrell is from Chandler, Arizona, and is a senior at Grand Canyon University. She is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and hopes to earn her master’s in the Netherlands. She is interested in pursuing a career in research involving the field of microbiology or genetics. Katie joined the research program pertaining to novel antimicrobials to gain experience and practice in a research lab setting.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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