Six groups consisting of diverse private and public institutions, including universities, pharmaceutical companies and environmental organizations, will collaborate on projects in ten countries that address biodiversity conservation and the promotion of sustained economic activity through drug discovery from natural products. Support for this program will total approximately $3.5 million per year over the next five years, shared among the NIH, NSF, and USDA. The Fogarty International Center, the international arm of the NIH, both administers the program on behalf of the sponsoring agencies and contributes to it along with NIH's National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
These investments, in part, represent the U.S. Government's commitment to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone, enhance scientific capacity in developing nations, and promote conservation of biodiversity through sustainable development.
Projects include the selection and acquisition of natural products derived from biological diversity as potential therapeutic agents for diseases such as cancer, AIDS, parasitic diseases, drug addiction, Alzheimer's disease and heart disease, all of which are of concern to both developed and developing countries. Other important components include discovery of safe new agents for crop protection and veterinary medicines, examination of traditional medicine practices, development of long-term strategies to ensure sustainable harvesting, biodiversity surveys and inventories, training and infrastructure support for host-country scientific institutions, and establishing a market valuation system for non-timber forest products.
Intellectual property agreements are negotiated among participating institutions so that economic and other benefits from these discoveries are equitably shared and accrue to local institutions and communities involved in the discovery of the natural product. Contributions from pharmaceutical and agroscience companies include screening for therapeutic potential, training opportunities, equipment donations, financial support, and royalties from the sale of any product developed as a result of ICBG research.
In announcing the awards, FIC Director Gerald T. Keusch, M.D. said "Although natural products have formed the basis of medicinal therapies throughout this century, research interest has resurged internationally in recent years as a result of technological advances and the rapid disappearance of organisms from which new medicines may be derived. The ICBG program not only demonstrates the potential of interagency cooperation, but the importance of collaborative research between the U.S. and our scientific partners in less developed nations."