Third set of awards are announced under interagency biodiversity program

December 19, 2003

Arlington, Va.-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),have announced 12 new grants in the third set of awards in the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) program. Support for the program will total approximately $5 million per year over the next five years, shared among NIH, NSF and USDA, and administered by NIH's Fogarty International Center (FIC).

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 iodiversity through model public-private partnerships with developing countries.

In announcing the awards, FIC director Gerald T. Keusch, said that "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."

He added that, "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 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.


ICBG awards include five comprehensive projects and seven planning grants. Comprehensive projects include the following:
Program Contact: James Rodman, (703) 292-8481, NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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