Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No.3, May 1999

1999, Vol. 21
No. 3 (May)
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Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No. 3
May 1999

News from IUPAC


Research and Training in Medicial Chemistry in South and Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa

Work Rationale
General Considerations
Survey Recipients
Results and Analysis of the Answers Received
Cooperation in Practical Training, Teaching and Research in Medicinal Chemistry
A Crucial Time for Collaboration in Medicinal Chemistry

Cooperation in Practical Training, Teaching, and Research in Medicinal Chemistry
The need for increased cooperation appears in all of the questionnaire responses. The impression created in this regard is that there are countries that circulate on a railway on board a train while others run alongside asking for help to get on. The countries on board the train must extend a hand to the countries that are not on board by responding to their requests.

Requests are very diverse. Countries such as Cameroon are considering aid, including in its initial stages, for commercializing plants in which active compounds appear. In general, cooperation is requested for correct preparation of extracts. In other cases, requests are related to the identification of active molecules and, in still others, to the determination of biological activities. Implicit in all the responses is a desire to be able to participate in the processes of research and development so as not to remain mere suppliers of plants.

Cooperation can be set up along three fundamental lines of action:

  • courses, seminars, etc., that foster relationships between institutions and persons within the teaching field
  • joint scientific investigations and research projects, emphasizing activities that allow for development of research centers
  • greater presence of pharmaceutical companies in scientific collaboration with those countries that sell their products

Survey responses have not been numerous enough to allow us to propose a statistical study of much significance. Nevertheless, certain tendencies constantly appear, which allow us to come to conclusions that seem to be generally valid.

First of all, similar problems exist in all three areas studied. Activity in medicinal chemistry is linked directly to the degree of progressiveness and economic development of each country. In more than one case, medicinal chemistry has been considered a luxury permitted only in developed countries.

Medicaments have historically been studied by using plants and traditional medicine as a starting point even in the most sophisticated societies. From a pragmatic point of view, it would be interesting to take into account the realities in developing countries when setting up corresponding academic programs and when putting forth proposals for collaboration on scientific research. Scientific authorities in Latin American countries seem to agree that this approach is wise.

With regard to collaboration on aspects of teaching, no special difficulties seem to appear; most likely, this interaction should establish itself based on mutual knowledge and aid from various institutions and foundations. Necessary actions to be taken in this area are not especially difficult; they fundamentally require the generosity of professors and researchers in the dedication of their time. One aspect to take into consideration would be the sometimes difficult access to money for travel expenses for professors.

Special importance should be placed on circulation of reference literature and bibliographic material. Any collaboration in this area should take into account all aspects of intellectual property, including legal rights of publishers, editors, and authors. Finding formulas that allow access to reference information by countries of limited resources is a true challenge to the imagination of the scientific community. Likewise, obtaining the means for developing countries to purchase adequate materials and reagents can only be accomplished through economic collaboration.

Equipment maintenance is an interesting consideration deduced from the survey. Some research centers have had access to valuable equipment as a result of goverment support, aid from private foundations, etc. However, in most of these cases, upkeep of this equipment, which is usually quite costly in monetary terms, has not been taken into consideration. This point is especially important in those countries that cannot readily maintain instruments in working order because maintenance service is not justified on the part of companies that produce the equipment.

With regard to possibilities of collaboration on scientific research, it is necessary to start from a position that contemplates the true situation of the indigenous institutions, including their strengths as well as their weaknesses. At present, it is possible to obtain quality extracts from plants that have proved active in traditional medicine. This advantage is important to those countries that have the plants and know their scientific possibilities; however, the possibility of obtaining extracts from plants that have never been studied before should not be underestimated. Structural novelty now appears on the scene frequently, and with it there is potentially an enormous interest when considering the possibilities of patents. Determination of biological activities, their validation, and elucidation of structures responsible for these activities should all be part of any offer of collaboration from even the most advanced countries. Most importantly, discovery of new medicinal agents cannot be realized without active participation of pharmaceutical companies.

A Crucial Time for Collaboration in Medicinal Chemistry
We have reached an important juncture for both the developing and advanced countries regarding collaboration in the field of medicinal chemistry. We need to question whether true cooperation is developing between the groups or if, on the other hand, differences are increasing. We must also question whether we are capable of recognizing the possibilities of collaboration, for mutual benefit, on areas in which the world of research is truly divided at this time.

Our survey shows that the developing countries are requesting collaboration with more advanced societies in which natural products should be considered as a starting point; this opportunity could very well be of interest to both societies.

This report was prepared for publication by Prof. A. Monge Vega (chairman, Spain), Universidad de Navarra, CIFA, Irunlarrea, s/n, 31008 Pamplona, Spain. The IUPAC Committee includes Prof. C. R. Ganellin, Department of Chemistry, Christopher Ingold Laboratories, University College London, 20 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AJ, UK; Dr. J. Ide, Medicinal Chemistry Research Laboratories, Sankyo Co., Ltd., 2-58 Hiromachi 1-Chome, Shinagawa-Ku, Tokyo 140, Japan; Dr. N. Koga, Daiichi Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., 14-10, Nihonbashi 3-Chome, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo, 103 Japan; Dr. P. Lindberg, Astra Hassle, A.B., S-432 83, Molndal, Sweden; Prof. L. A. Mitscher, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045-2506, USA; Dr. J. C. Muller, Synthelabo Recherche, BP 110, 31 Avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, F 92225 Bagneux Cˇdex, France; Dr. T. J. Perun, Abbott Laboratories, Dept. 467, Building R-8, 1401 Sheridan Road, North Chicago, IL 60064-4000, US.A; Prof. J. G. Topliss, University of Michigan, College of Pharmacy, 428 Church St., Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1065, USA; Prof. C. G. Wermuth, Faculte de Pharmacie, Laboratoire de Chimie Organique, Universite Louis Pasteur, 74, Route du Rhin, BP 24 Strasbourg, F 67401 Illkirch Cedex, France.


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