Vol. 21, No. 3
Research and Training
in Medicial Chemistry in South and Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa
Results and Analysis of the Answers Received
Cooperation in Practical Training, Teaching
and Research in Medicinal Chemistry
A Crucial Time for Collaboration in Medicinal
Antonio Monge Vega, Titular Member of the IUPAC Chemistry and Human
Health Division Commission on Training and Development (VII.M.2) and
Member of the Working Parties on Medicinal Chemistry Curriculum, Guidelines
for Natural Product Collaborations, and Training and Research in Medicinal
Chemistry in Developing Countries (Centro de Investigacion en Farmacobiologica
Aplicada, Universidad de Navarra, 31080, Pamplona, Spain; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org),
contributed the following article. This overview represents IUPAC's
efforts to develop an awareness of the state of medicinal chemistry
in different geographic areas of the world and a proposal to achieve
more effective international cooperation.
Improving therapeutic and sanitary conditions in different countries
is a noble objective that, at present, receives much attention from
diverse organizations and governments throughout the world. However,
it is well known that therapeutic needs differ from country to country.
For example, in some countries, the principal health problems are linked
to cardiovascular diseases, degenerative diseases, and cancer, while
in others, infectious diseases are the principal causes of morbidity
and mortality. In each of these cases, medicine, as a sanitary tool,
is part of the universal heritage, with important implications for sanitary
and economic interests. Medicinal chemists are the health professionals
charged with the responsibility of synthesizing new compounds for testing
as part of the discovery process for new medicines.
IUPAC's Medicinal Chemistry Section
decided to gather statistical and anecdotal information about the collaboration
and the barriers to progress in drug discovery among countries. We were
particularly interested in those countries that are at present unable
to contribute a significant part of their resources to research and
education in the discovery of new medicinal agents. Our initial actions
are intended to determine the current situation; subsequently we will
seek channels to facilitate better communication between countries.
Here we publish the results of our first study, with the aim of stimulating
international contact and collaboration.
This first review considers South and Central America
and sub-Saharan Africa. A subsequent study will include other geographic
areas of interest, such as Asia.
A medicinal agent is part of the universal heritage of a nation,
in spite of the difference between countries that carry out research
on new medicinal agents and those countries that are only consumers
of medicinal agents. There are countries that promote medicinal chemistry
in their universities, research centers, and industrial companies, while
in some others, it is common knowledge that this practice is nonexistent.
In others still, it is unknown whether this practice is carried out.
The world is constantly changing, and great civilizations have disappeared
while new ones have emerged. In this context, is the present situation,
in which there are countries that carry out research versus countries
that only use the results, likely to continue in the future?
The process of discovering medicinal agents contains both
old and new elements: the techniques are new, while imagination is old;
the instrumentation is new, but careful and well-documented observation
is old; and the reporting methods are new and yet communication, as
the most characteristic concept for defining humanity, is old. While
large research groups usually carry out discovery of medicinal agents,
small groups can also be successful when they know their profession
well and when their members are researchers of great talents. The discovery
and invention of new medicinal agents calls for well-endowed libraries,
but access to these installations no longer requires the immediate physical
presence of the researcher; such access can be remote. The discovery
and invention of new medicinal agents also requires information, but
this tool is found not only in traditional libraries. Can we simply
ignore old civilizations that have conserved a traditional medicine
which has proved itself effective, despite its vicissitudes?
Events relating to this question date back many years,
for example, to the discovery of America in 1492. This example can be
applied to today's experience. A continent that was well developed in
the arts, philosophy, and sciences, met up with another continent whose
development, in general, was very different. These circumstances changed
the history of all humanity. But it was in the field of medicine and
the area of therapeutic remedies where the great revolution in therapeutics
would take place. What has happened since then? The developed countries
have considered the traditional medicines of the New World to be of
great interest, but they have carried out their research outside
the newly discovered territories. This generalization is applicable
to Africa, Central America, and South America and has resulted in the
development of both research and the derived clinical experience in
countries other than those where the native medicinal plants had been
found. Thus, many compounds within the scope of modern therapeutics
have their origin in plants used in traditional cultures for therapeutic
purposes. Current studies with Taxus and Uncaria are examples
of this phenomenon.
As a result, the panorama is divided as in the 16th century;
however, the situation is not the same. The 21st century will be important
for many reasons. The countries of South and Central America and Africa
are finding their way in social, political, and even scientific fields.
In the near future, true collaboration among countries can be an important
alternative, among others, for the global development of medicinal chemistry.
Possibly, it is in this context that medicinal chemistry should
be developed in the next century.
Cooperation already exists between equals, i.e., well-developed
companies and well-developed research centers. The time has come for
these organizations to cooperate with lesser-developed institutions.
Contemplating our planet Earth from up on the Moon clarifies many things
with regard to differences between races, countries, cultures, and levels
of industrial development.
With the proposal to search for universal cooperation in the field
of medicinal chemistry, the IUPAC group has formulated a work plan divided
into two phases:
- Develop an awareness of the true situation of medicinal chemistry
in the different geographic areas of the world.
- Recommend a proposed set of actions to achieve more effective cooperation.
This report presents and discusses the results of a written
questionnaire and interviews carried out in Central and South America
and in sub-Saharan Africa.
The survey was designed to cover four distinct areas:
- teaching of medicinal chemistry
- research in medicinal chemistry
- opportunities for development of research, teaching, and training
in the field of medicinal chemistry
- cooperation in practical training, teaching, and research in medicinal