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Fogarty International Center (FIC)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Irene Edwards

Third Round Awards are Announced Under Interagency Biodiversity Program

Bethesda, Maryland — A consortium of Federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH)*, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), announces 12 new awards under the third review cycle of the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) program. Support for this program will total approximately $5 million per year over the next five years, shared among NIH, NSF, and USDA. The Fogarty International Center, which led development of the program in 1993, administers and supports it with the co-sponsors.

The ICBG program has three main objectives: to uncover new knowledge that will lead to improved therapies, to enhance scientific capacity building in developing nations, and to promote knowledge and conservation of biodiversity through model public-private partnerships with developing countries.

In announcing the awards, FIC director Gerald T. Keusch, M.D. said "Natural products have formed the basis of over half of currently available medicinal therapies around the world. Recent advances in drug discovery science and botanicals evaluation, coupled with the rapid disappearance of organisms from which new medicines may be derived, make this work more important today than ever. “Furthermore,” he added, “we see development of new and improved therapies from indigenous resources in a collaborative framework between U.S. and developing country institutions as an important component of the evolving picture of the global health research agenda including access to life saving medications."

James Rodman, program director in NSF’s division of environmental biology, added that “since 1993, when NSF joined in the sponsorship of this innovative program, the ICBG projects have been productive and pioneering explorations around the world of the link between biodiversity, new therapeutic agents and indigenous economic development – all in a climate of intense scrutiny since the Rio Convention on Biodiversity.”

This round of awards will support 12 groups, each designed to identify new drugs through screening of flora and fauna while protecting biodiversity. The groups are consortia of public and private institutions, including universities, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and indigenous environmental and community groups.

Projects include the identification and characterization of chemical compounds derived from biological diversity that have potential as therapeutic agents for diseases such as cancer, AIDS, parasitic diseases, drug addiction, mental conditions, and heart disease, all of which are of concern to both developed and developing countries. Other important components include evaluation of traditional medicine practices, discovery of safe new agents for agricultural applications, conduct of biodiversity surveys and inventories, development of strategies to ensure sustainable yield of biodiversity-based therapies, and training and infrastructure support for host-country scientific institutions.

Intellectual property agreements are negotiated among participating institutions so that economic and other benefits from both the research process and products are equitably shared and accrue to local institutions and communities involved. Contributions from pharmaceutical and agroscience companies include screening for therapeutic potential, training opportunities, technology donations, financial support, and royalties from the sale of any product developed as a result of ICBG research.

FIC is the international component of the NIH. It promotes and supports scientific discovery internationally and mobilizes resources to reduce disparities in global health. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Press releases and other FIC-related materials are available at www.fic.nih.gov.

* National Cancer Institute, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Center for Research Resources, and Office of Dietary Supplements.

Award Highlights

ICBG awards include five comprehensive projects and seven planning grants. Comprehensive projects include the following:

  • Dr. William Gerwick in collaboration with Dr. Phyllis D. Coley and colleagues at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, building on a previous five-year ICBG award, are using ecological insight to build a sustainable bioprospecting program in Panama for discovery of both pharmaceutical and agricultural products from plants and marine algae in collaboration with Oregon State University, Panama’s National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Nature Foundation of Panama, the University of Panama, Novartis Oncology, and Dow Agrosciences.
  • Dr. David G.I. Kingston of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, is collaborating in a third five-year ICBG to study tropical plants and marine organisms in Madagascar. The group includes Missouri Botanical Garden, Conservation International, the Madagascar National Centers for Pharmaceutical Research, for Environmental Research and for Oceanographic Research, as well as Eisai Pharmaceutical Research Institute and Dow Agrosciences.
  • Dr. Djaja "Doel" Soejarto and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Chicago are leading a second five year program to integrate studies on biodiversity and the discovery pharmacological agents for AIDS, cancer, malaria and tuberculosis from tropical forest plants of Laos and Vietnam. Collaborating institutions include the National Center for Natural Sciences and Technology and Cuc-Phuong National Park in Vietnam, the Research Institute for Medicinal Plants in Laos, Purdue University, and Bristol Myers-Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute.
  • Dr. Louis Barrows and colleagues from the University of Utah are collaborating with several organizations in the U.S. and Papua New Guinea to assess forest and coral reef organisms of Papua New Guinea as sources of pharmaceutical and botanical therapies for local and global health needs. Partners in this project include the University of Papua New Guinea, National Forest Research Institute, and PNG Bionet of Papua New Guinea, the Smithsonian Institution, University of Miami, Nature Conservancy, Brigham Young University, and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
  • Dr. Ilya Raskin and colleagues from Rutgers University lead a project focused on the plant, fungal and microbial biodiversity of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Other partners include the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Tashkent State Agrarian University and Kyrgyz Agricultural Research Institute, Eisai Research Institute, Diversa, and Phytomedics Inc.

Planning Grants have been awarded to the following groups:

  • Paul Cox and colleagues of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii is collaborating with the Samoan of Ministry of Trade and Tourism, the Kingdom of Tonga Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, University of California, Santa Cruz, Beth Israel (NY) Integrative Medicine Clinic, the AIDS ReSearch Alliance, Phenomenome Discoveries Inc, Anti-Cancer Inc., and Diversa Inc to explore plants, marine and micro organisms and develop sustainable production methods of a promising natural product anti-HIV agent.
  • Jon Clardy of Harvard University is collaborating with the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica (INBio) to explore poorly understood endophytic fungi and uncultured soil microbes of Costa Rica. Major therapeutic areas of interest include cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and malaria.
  • Michael Kron and colleagues from Michigan State University are working with several components of the University of the Philippines to document microbial community diversity in varied terrestrial and marine locations, and explore with the support of local indigenous communities, the therapeutic potential of natural products from documented and undocumented medicinal plants, invertebrates and microbes derived from areas throughout the Philippines.
  • Nicholas Oberlies and colleagues from Research Triangle Institute, in collaboration with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the University of North Carolina and Jordan University of Science and Technology, and the University of Jordan will examine the diversity and therapeutic potential of selected medicinal plants and bacteria of Jordan.
  • Iwao Ojima and colleagues from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, are working with the Institute for Conservation of Tropical Environment, the University of Antananarivo, and the University of Fianarantsoa of Madagascar as well as the California Academy of Sciences, INDENA SpA, and the University of the Eastern Piedmont of Italy to explore plants and arthropods of Madagascar.
  • Larry Walker and colleagues from the National Center for Natural Products Research, with the National Institute of Undersea Science and Technology of the University of Mississippi are collaborating with Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory of the University of West Indies to research the biodiversity and therapeutic potential of marine coral reef organisms of Jamaica.
  • Mark Hay and colleagues of the Georgia Institute of Technology are collaborating with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of the South Pacific, and the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission of Fiji to examine plant, freshwater and marine coral reef organisms of Fiji to assess conservation priorities and discover new therapeutic agents.

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