By training professionals in high-biodiversity regions to advance the drug discovery process in-country, a novel program drives drug discovery costs down as it promotes tropical biodiversity conservation. An international team describes a successful test of the program in Panama in the December, 2006 issue of BioScience.
"Instead of sending samples to the U.S. or Switzerland, we identify natural substances that may control cancer, AIDS, malaria and other tropical diseases here, at the University of Panama," explains Luis Cubilla-Rios, one of the chemists on the project. Over 70 Panamanian students participated during the first seven years of the project, and 22 continue to seek graduate degrees in the sciences.
Phyllis Coley and Tom Kursar, University of Utah, studied basic chemical ecology of plants at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's station on Barro Colorado Island in Panama: "We were alarmed by the lack of conservation strategies that provide immediate benefits for people living in high biodiversity regions," explains Kursar, who sought funding for this project, called the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Agriculture.
"By making it feasible for host country professionals to conduct as much of the drug discovery process as possible in Panama , the ICBG program provides immediate economic and educational benefits," Coley emphasizes.
"Only a small proportion of bioactive substances make it to the product development stage. If that happens, the proceeds come back to Panama…but the success of this project doesn't depend on that happening. Also, research on malaria, leishmaniasis, dengue and Chagas disease is of great national importance, even though treatments for such diseases are unlikely to generate large financial benefits," adds Todd Capson, the in-country program coordinator, who worked closely with Panama's Environment Authority (ANAM), the University of Panama, Gorgas Laboratories and the National Office of Science and Technology (SENACYT) to establish the institutional framework for the project.
Now technology transfer goes from South to North. In addition to describing potential pharmaceutical chemicals, and developing innovative bioassay procedures, local professionals become successful advocates for increased protection for areas such as Coiba National Park, which became a World Heritage Site based on scientific documentation of its marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
Kursar sums up the program this way: "We document biodiversity, provide scientific training and jobs and level the playing field, encouraging the establishment of truly international, multidisciplinary scientific collaborations."
"The ICBG program is an example of the practical application of basic research for human benefit. Ecologists know who eats whom and understand chemical signalling—without them, drug discovery teams would be faced with the difficult task of looking for a needle in a haystack," STRI Director, Ira Rubinoff concludes.
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21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
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