Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

CV and Project description


Manuela Marai (1982) was born in Verona, Italy, and received her secondary education at the Liceo Classico Scipione Maffei, Verona. She graduated in Molecular Biology from the University of Padova (BSc in 2004 and MSc in 2006). After 2 years of research at the University of Milano, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Classical Languages and Literatures from the University of Verona (2013) and a master’s degree in Classical Languages and Literatures and Ancient History from the University of Padova (2018), with a thesis in the history of medicine (‘Il De usu respirationis di Galeno: traduzione e saggio di commento’). She is currently a PhD student at the University of Warwick, under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Petit (Department of Classics and Ancient History) and Dr. Freya Harrison (School of Life Sciences).




Project description


Galen's Pharmacological Texts as a Potential Source of New Plant- Derived Antimicrobial Agents


Although natural products have been playing a significant role in drug discovery and development in Western medicine for a long time, in the last decades the interest in plant therapeutic potential has increased for a series of reasons, including the side effects of current drugs or their inability to cure effectively certain diseases. In particular, huge efforts have been put in the search of new antimicrobial compounds due to the global health crisis caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Together with traditional medicine, historical medical texts have been considered as a source for drug discovery, following the reassessment of the validity of ancient pharmacology.

In my project I investigate the use of natural substances prescribed by the Greek physician Galen of Pergamon in formulations for wound healing, since wounds are a condition at high risk of infection and therefore represent a good candidate for antimicrobial drug discovery. The potentialities of Galen as a resource for pharmacological innovations lie on two elements: the solid therapeutic method which determined his legacy, as well as the experimental nature of ancient pharmacology combined with the extraordinary amount of Galenic pharmacological data, which in many aspects are still significantly overlooked. My project utilises an approach based on an in-depth textual analysis of several Galenic writings, an integration with modern medical notions and laboratory testing of Galenic remedies to verify their pharmacological activity. The study benefits also from explorations into ancient botany, ethnobotany, and ethnopharmacology.