The earth's biological resources underpin economic and social development across industries, ranging from tourism and cosmetics to agriculture and pharmaceuticals. The UN warns that the threat to species and ecosystems has never been greater, as extinction caused by human activities continues at an alarming rate.
As natural resources represent an important source of potential new drugs for patients, the preservation of biodiversity is essential in our efforts to cure diseases and save lives.
Novartis policy on biodiversity
The Novartis policy on biodiversity acknowledges that countries maintain sovereignty over their genetic resources and may limit access to them in collaborations with natural product providers. Novartis strongly endorses sharing of benefits derived from future products in accordance with the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity, while ensuring compliance with intellectual property law.
Drug discovery collaborations based on natural products
Novartis has forged research collaborations in several countries. These are conducted in accordance with local regulations and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The joint development of a pioneering medicine against malaria by Novartis and Chinese collaborators is a prototype for effective natural product research.
Another prominent collaborator in China is the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM). In 2001, Novartis and SIMM announced a drug discovery collaboration based on natural products. Under the agreement, SIMM has isolated hundreds of new compounds from medicinal plants known in traditional Chinese medicine. In return, Novartis provided financial support, and shared know-how in natural product research and in advanced drug discovery techniques such as high-throughput screening. In 2004, Novartis and SIMM extended and expanded this collaboration.
In 2009, Novartis laid the foundations for natural product research in Malaysia by signing a memorandum of understanding with Sarawak Biodiversity Center (SBC). SBC is a scientific institute established in the state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, which encompasses rain forests with extraordinarily rich biodiversity.
The agreement with Novartis reflects ambitions by Malaysia to nurture a domestic biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Like other collaborations, Novartis will provide financial support, identify new natural compounds from materials supplied by SBC, help upgrade the technology base and offer internships for microbiologists and natural product chemists at the Natural Products research unit within the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR).