Performance Improvement 1999. Evaluation of the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups

02/01/1999

Highlights
The International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) are the first large scale, multi-country attempt to combine natural products drug discovery with measures to promote conservation of diverse biological species around the world. This study evaluated the ICBGs to determine their progress in achieving their goals and objectives. The findings from this study are to be used to assist ICBG sponsors in managing the program and to provide useful ideas on innovations and lessons learned from the individual programs.

The results indicate that each ICBG group made real accomplishments toward finding new drug lead compounds, advancing conservation techniques, and promoting sustainable economic development through their multi-disciplinary research and capacity-building activities. All ICBGs discovered novel bioactive compounds and developed systems to inventory and archive information gained on the biological diversity of their respective source countries. Also significant was that all ICBGs provided training in biodiversity conservation, drug discovery and drug development in their source country. The results from this evaluation study will provide a useful model and significantly contribute to scientific capacity building in future biodiversity programs in other countries.

Purpose
The purpose of this study was to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the ICBG program to assess progress toward achieving individual program goals and objectives (drug discovery, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable economic development). The evaluation findings are to be used to assist ICBG sponsors in managing the program and to provide useful ideas on innovations and lessons learned from the individual programs.

Background
The ecological base for sustainable human survival is contingent upon maintaining and ensuring the access of populations to resources to meet their needs, now and for future generations. There is an urgent need to protect a deteriorating global environment that provides for basic human needs while at the same time promoting economic well-being. This is especially true in both developed and developing countries where natural resources have been depleted.

Over the past two centuries technological developments have provided humans with the ability to expand the transformation of natural resources into the large scale production of goods. The world has reached a critical point in this process. In developing countries, natural resources have been severely depleted by human impacts, such as forest loss through unsustainable logging, agriculture, ranching and overgrazing. In developing countries, dwindling reserves are vulnerable because conservation awareness and legislation are often weak or non-existent.

The ICBG program was conceived as one approach to contribute toward the potential resolution of these problems. The ICBGs addressed developmental issues of importance to both the United States and the international community. Each ICBG accomplishes its work through a unique multi-national and multi-disciplinary partnership. The ICBG model provides working tools for responsible resource development and hopefully will be the catalyst for larger sustainable efforts throughout the world. The ICBG program, through each individual group, also supports research, training, technology transfer, and scientific infrastructure development.

Methods
An Evaluation Advisory Group was established for the study with membership being drawn from the scientific staff of each ICBG and each funding agency, five source countries, and outside experts. The task of this group was to develop the critical variables to be tested and to generate methods through which these variables might be assessed. After the specific variables had been identified, collection instruments were designed to collect data in four phases: (1) a pre-site visit, (2) archival data collection, (3) site visit interviews, and (4) post-site visit interviews. Because of the large amount of data to be collected, four instrument components were developed and administered over the remaining year of the current grant cycle.

After design of this methodological structure, a contract was awarded to the Center for Public Health Research and Evaluation of the Battelle Corporation for a specific approach that accomplished the following: (1) accommodated the varied and non-standard implementation of the ICBGs, (2) obtained sufficiently broad coverage of respondents, (3) minimized the burden on ICBG researchers and other respondents, and (4) incorporated cost and time efficiencies.

Contractor staff made visits to three selected sites in Chile, Peru, and Suriname. Prior to the site visits, data were collected on the organizational and programmatic (scientific) structure of the ICBG's potential site visit respondents. Additionally during this phase, Group Leaders completed a self-administered questionnaire. During Phase 2 of the data collection, two sets of instruments were used to gather data. The various activities in which the ICBGs had been engaged were collected and evaluated. A second self-administered questionnaire was again completed by the Group Leader. During the actual site visits to the three countries, interviews were conducted with program leaders and indigenous people who had been involved with the programs. The post-visit data were collected through telephone calls to the various ICBGs.

Findings
Results show that each ICBG group demonstrated significant movement toward accomplishment of the program's strategic objectives: to protect human health, advance the conservation of biologically diverse ecosystems, and promote sustainable economic development through the search for drugs to control diseases of concern to both developed and developing countries.

There were significant strides in the discovery of new drug leads. While no new drugs were discovered, substantial efforts by the ICBGs were made in the four areas. The ICBGs all accomplished the following:

  • Development of contractual agreements with source country organizations. It was recognized that a consensus-building process must occur before the initiation of sample collections and the establishment of the intellectual property rights. Each ICBG concluded its own set of novel agreements to govern the collaborations.
  • Collection and inventory of its activities. Each ICBG was able to accomplish somewhat less collecting than expected. However, over 3,000 species had been collected during the first four years. The ICBGs also developed new approaches to sample collection and testing and improving methods.
  • Engagement of extraction activities. The ICBGs combined report producing over 6,000 extracts from samples collected and submitted these for testing in at least 60 different assays in15 different therapeutic areas.

The ICBGs facilitated sustainable economic systems by developing local capacity, scientific infrastructure, and community-based enterprises. All ICBGs carried out some level of training to increase the source country human capacity in drug discovery, and in biodiversity conservation. Two of the ICBGs have contributed toward building renovations in the source countries. Development of micro enterprise initiatives with local communities was initiated by two ICBGs.

Use of Evaluation Results
The ICBG Program was established as a unique effort to coordinate scientific, cultural, and political forces in providing new information on plant and animal species, the possibility of the development of new drugs from this diverse flora and fauna, the initiation of conservation efforts through education and understanding (including in-country legislation), and development of methods to move the collection and biodiversity conservation efforts to being self-sustaining.

This evaluation provides:

  • benchmarks for future biodiversity collection and conservation programs,
  • advances in generating and evaluating the types of data necessary for an understandingofbiodiversity-type program impact,
  • methods that allow for efficient and targeted collection of information for future projects,
  • information for future scientific capacity building of biodiversity programs in some countries,
  • knowledge and expertise for designing in-country agreements that are equitable to a diverse set of parties with vastly differing priorities, and
  • a useful model for operating new initiatives and for obtaining data that can be used to justify increased funding.

AGENCY SPONSOR:

FEDERAL CONTACT: Kirby J. Weldon

PHONE NUMBER: 301-496-2571

PERFORMER ORGANIZATION: Battelle Corporation, Arlington, VA