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Biodiversity grants in search of dietary therapies

September - October, 2008  |  Volume 7, Issue 5

One of Fogarty's older programs, the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups, is seeking new applications, this time for projects with an emphasis on finding plant life that could be developed into dietary supplements or alternative medicines.

"We anticipate making two or three new grants or extensions of up to $600,000 a year for five years," says program officer Dr. Josh Rosenthal, who notes that products originally identified from plants, animals and microorganisms are the basis for about half the new chemical entities approved as drugs over the past 25 years.

"Our interest in potential supplements and nontraditional therapies derived from plants is the result of increasing consumer use of unregulated botanical substances," says Rosenthal.

Discoveries also may lead to biologically based technologies that could result in alternative fuel sources. Right now, he says, science relies on less than 1 percent of the estimated eight-to-10 million species for improving health and "while there is a great deal of redundancy in nature, there is likely an enormous undescribed set of biologically active molecules awaiting discovery."

The biodiversity program focuses on improving health, as well as agricultural and economic development, in the low- and middle-income countries where the research will take place.

The program is managed by Fogarty, which contributes to the funding, along with the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and, from NIH: the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

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