University Of Georgia Awarded $2.5 Million Grant For Drug Discovery And Biodiversity Among The Maya Of Mexico

ATHENS, Ga. -- Climate, varied terrain and rainfall make the tropics a botanical garden of vast riches. While development has brought economic strength to the United States and Europe, it has also brought ecological devastation in places, leaving Third World countries with the greatest diversity of plants that could hold the secrets of curing diseases.

Only a small number of plants have been tested for medicinal value by scientists, however, despite the fact that indigenous peoples have used them for centuries. Now, an international team of scientists, led by researchers from the University of Georgia, will examine the pharmacological value a group of plants that grow in the homelands of the Highland Tzeltal and Tzotzil Maya of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

They will do it with a $2.5 million, five-year grant just awarded to the University by a consortium that includes the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. As part of the NIH's Fogerty International Center International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups Program, six currently funded research teams are part of an innovative program on drug discovery, biodiversity conservation, and sustained economic development working in eight countries of Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

"We will identify bioactive agents that can contribute to the economic development and biodiversity conservation of the Highland Maya," said Brent Berlin, Graham Perdue Professor of Anthropology at UGA and director of UGA's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. "We will discover, isolate and evaluate plants that might have medicinal value and then use them to help develop the local economy through sustainable production."

The project will be coordinated by Berlin and colleagues at UGA but involves participants in several countries. Other senior researchers from the University in t

Contact: Phil Williams
University of Georgia

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