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.
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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