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.
How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy