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.
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.07.2017 | Life Sciences