International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG)
Table of Contents
The International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) Program is a unique effort that addresses the interdependent issues of drug discovery, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable economic growth. Funding for this program has been provided by nine components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Biological Sciences Directorate of the National Science Foundation and the Foreign Agriculture Service and Forest Service of the USDA. The cooperating NIH components are the Fogarty International Center (FIC), National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Office of Dietary Supplements, and National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
Efforts to examine the medicinal potential of the earth's plants, animals and microorganisms are urgently needed, since enduring habitat destruction and the resulting diminishment of biodiversity will make it increasingly difficult to do so in the future. 40-50% of currently used drugs have an origin in natural products. The FIC-managed Biodiversity Program is designed to guide natural products drug discovery in such a way that local communities and other source country organizations can derive direct benefits from their diverse biological resources. Benefit-sharing may provide clear incentives for preservation and sustainable use of that biodiversity.
There are currently seven awards of approximately $600,000 per year. Total inter-agency funding for the program in FY 05 was $6 million, of which $2 million derives from FIC appropriations. The ICBGs are currently working in nine countries in Latin America, Africa, Southeast and Central Asia, and the Pacific Islands, building research capacity in more than 20 different institutions and training hundreds of individuals. To date, more than 5,000 species of plants, animals, and fungi have been collected to examine biological activity in 19 different therapeutic areas. Numerous publications in chemistry, biodiversity policy, conservation and ethnobiology have emerged from the funded investigators. Broad public attention to the program and its timing relative to international developments associated with the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity have allowed the ICBG program to offer useful working models for national and international policy discussions related to biodiversity conservation incentive measures, technology transfer, intellectual property and benefit-sharing.
Current Funding Opportunity Announcement: RFA-TW-08-010
For additional information on the ICBG Program, contact:
The conceptual basis for the ICBG program was developed during a conference in March of 1991 sponsored by the NIH, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The conference focused on the potential relationships between drug development, biological diversity and economic growth. The International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) program was initiated in 1992 in a collaborative effort of NIH, NSF and USAID to advance their three interrelated goals.
Five multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional awards were made in 1993 and 1994.The program was re-competed in 1998, 2003, and 2005. Expert panels evaluated the progress of this experimental effort in 1997and 2002. These reports (see ICBG Archive below) on the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups offers important insights into the progress of the program and its challenges for the future.
The ICBG program aims to integrate improvement of human health through drug discovery, creation of incentives for conservation of biodiversity, and promotion of scientific research and sustainable economic activity that focuses on environment, health, equity and democracy. This program is based on the belief that discovery and development of pharmaceutical and other useful agents from natural products can, under appropriate circumstances, promote scientific capacity development and economic incentives to conserve the biological resources from which these products are derived.
Projects include acquisition and analysis of natural products derived from biological diversity as potential therapeutic agents for diseases of concern to both developed and developing countries. The diseases of concern include AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, cancers, heart disease, drug addiction and central nervous system disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. Other important components include discovery of safe new agents for crop protection and veterinary medicines. The projects also include efforts to carry out biodiversity inventories and surveys, examine and preserve traditional medicine practices, to develop long-term strategies to ensure sustainable harvesting, to promote training and infrastructure support for host-country institutions and long-term funding for biodiversity conservation in the host countries.
The ICBG awards were reviewed by a multi-disciplinary peer review panel composed of experts. Group members are linked by a series of research and benefit-sharing agreements that were formed by the investigators to address a set of operational and intellectual property principles outlined in the ICBG Requests for Applications. To facilitate activities of these complex groups each ICBG has a government committee of scientific advisors, together representing expertise from each of the funding agencies. The program director from FIC interprets policy and program issues and manages funding. Together these scientists and other representatives from the funding agencies make up the Technical Advisory Group to the entire program.
Seven International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups, consisting of diverse public and private institutions including universities, environmental organizations and pharmaceutical companies in nine countries, are currently collaborating on multi-disciplinary projects toward the goals outlined above.
Other information on the ICBGs and related topics can be found at the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group: Global Data Center Web site.
Updated July 2008