|Fogarty Announces Awards for Biodiversity-based Drug Discovery
The Fogarty International Center (FIC), part of the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), announced two new awards to support the search for new pharmaceutical
compounds and agricultural agents from organisms found in coral reefs, forests,
and extreme environments, the cataloging of these diverse organisms, and the
training of scientists in the United States and developing countries.
Chemical compounds originally identified from plants, animals and micro-organisms
have been the basis for the development of nearly half of our new drugs over
the past 20 years. Recent examples include a new drug called ziconitide (Prialt
TM) for treatment of severe chronic pain originally derived from tropical cone
snails, and an anti-cancer compound called hemiasterlin, based on a molecule
found in sponges off the coast of New Guinea.
As part of its International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) program,
FIC is funding international, public-private, interdisciplinary research teams.
The two awardees are led by Dr. Jon Clardy of Harvard University (Cambridge,
MA) and by Dr. Mark Hay of Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA).
The awards, co-sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases and National Institute of General Medical Sciences, both parts of the
NIH, and the National Science Foundation, provide $6.5 million over four years
to support these two new projects. Together with five previously awarded ICBG
grants, total funding for the program is about $6 million per year from a consortium
of U.S. government science funding agencies.
"Novel compounds from natural products continue to be one of the most important
sources of completely new chemistry," noted FIC Acting Director, Dr. Sharon Hrynkow. "The
ICBG program works to identify such compounds in close partnership with universities,
pharmaceutical companies, and other non-governmental organizations, including
indigenous peoples' groups."
Dr. Clardy's team includes investigators at Harvard Medical School (Boston,
MA); Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT (Cambridge, MA); University of Michigan
(Ann Arbor, MI); National Institute of Biodiversity (Santo Domingo de Heredia,
Costa Rica); and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (Cambridge, MA).
The Harvard project will focus on organisms found in Costa Rica that have been
under-explored because they are less accessible, less well-known scientifically,
and more difficult to analyze. Research teams will use these organisms, for example,
marine and soil bacteria and a type of fungus that lives inside plants, to identify
compounds with the potential to treat a wide spectrum of disorders. These include
infectious diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and several types of cancer.
Dr. Hay's team includes investigators from Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta,
GA); Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, CA); University of the South
Pacific (Suva, Fiji); and Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute
The Georgia Institute of Technology project will study marine bacteria and coral
reef plants and invertebrates to uncover chemical compounds for use in treating
people with cancer, malaria, HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and other emerging bacterial
pathogens, such as drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
"These projects are noteworthy because they will use not only state-of-the-art
approaches to drug discovery and conservation science, but also novel approaches
to the ethical sharing of benefits among all partners," said Dr. Joshua Rosenthal,
FIC Biodiversity Program Director.
In addition to the two new awards, the ICBG supports five other projects. Joining
FIC in supporting these other projects are the National Institute of Mental Health,
National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Cancer Institute, National Center
for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Office of Dietary Supplements, and
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and the National Science Foundation.
For more information on the ICBG program, see this web site: http://www.fic.nih.gov/programs/icbg.html.
FIC, the international component of the NIH, addresses global health challenges
through innovative and collaborative research and training programs and supports
and advances the NIH mission through international partnerships.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.