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NIH BIODIVERSITY GRANTS: BRISTOL TO STUDY COSTA RICAN INSECT EXTRACTS

Executive Summary

NIH BIODIVERSITY GRANTS: BRISTOL TO STUDY COSTA RICAN INSECT EXTRACTS in cooperation with Cornell University to search for potential anti-cancer, anti-infective, cardiovascular, central nervous system and dermatological medicines. Cornell was one of the recipients of the first International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG) awards announced Dec. 7 at a Washington, D.C. press conference. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The grants are administered by NIH's Fogarty International Center (FIC). Other companies participating in ICBG grants include Lederle, Searle and Shaman Pharmaceuticals. Bristol-Myers Squibb is involved in a total of three grants. The grant awarded to Cornell University and investigator Jerrold Meinwald "will look at tropical insects and related species as potential sources of new drugs," a description of the proposal states. "While insects are well known to utilize a wide variety of secondary metabolites as defensive agents, venoms and pheromones, they have received much less attention than plants, microbes or marine organisms as potential sources of useful pharmaceutical agents." Bristol-Myers Squibb and Cornell will also cooperate with the Costa Rican Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad on the program. BMS will screen extracts prepared by INBio for activity. The company will also train Costa Rican scientists at its labs. At least one other company has sought to develop drugs in cooperation with Costa Rica: Merck signed a two-year cooperative agreement with INBio in September 1991 ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 10, 1992, T&G- 8). A grant awarded to Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to study the Nigeria/Cameroon rain forest for therapies for tropical diseases will involve both Bristol-Myers Squibb and Shaman. "The project includes a component for developing systems of cultivation for the medicinal plant Ancistrocladus, source of the anti-HIV agent Michellamine B," the grant description states. Bristol will also cooperate in a grant awarded to Virginia Tech to study the potential for use of plant material in Suriname as a source of new medicines. Lederle will screen drugs for the University of Arizona collected from plants native to Mexico, Chile and Argentina. Therapeutic targets include CNS, cardiovascular, intermediary metabolism, allergy/inflammation, gastrointestinal, cancer, antiviral and antibacterial applications. Searle will participate in a grant awarded to Washington University in St. Louis to study traditional medicines from the Andes for tumors, leishmaniasis and diarrheal diseases as well as possible compounds for anti- infective and anti-inflammatory uses. The purpose of the ICBG program is to support drug discovery from natural products while "[preserving] biological diversity and [promoting] economic growth through sustainable harvesting," FIC Director Philip Schambra told the press conference. The pharmaceutical companies involved will operate under subcontracts to grantees to perform screening of collected material for therapeutic potential and to train scientists from host countries. In addition, the firms will contribute equipment, financial support for the projects and a percentage of royalties to the host countries from sales of products developed under the program, an NIH/AID/NSF press release states. FIC will award the ICBG grants through the cooperative agreement mechanism at a total of $12 mil. over a five-year period. A request for applications for the program was issued June 12, 1992.

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