October 1, 2004 in Nation/World

University, Samoa to split drug profits

Associated Press

BERKELEY, Calif. – The University of California-Berkeley and the Samoan government agreed to split profits from any AIDS drug that researchers derive using a rainforest tree.

The pact, announced Thursday, involves the gene sequence of prostratin, an experimental anti-HIV compound extracted from mamala tree bark that helps expose dormant HIV cells so they can be attacked by other AIDS drugs.

Samoan healers traditionally use the extract to treat hepatitis.

Berkeley researchers plan to clone tree genes and insert them into bacteria to create a microbial source of the drug.

Samoa’s half of any profit will go to the government, villages and the families of healers who first taught an American ethnobotanist, Dr. Paul Alan Cox, about the plant’s medicinal properties.

Under the deal, Berkeley and Samoa also would negotiate to distribute any drug to developing nations at a minimal profit.

The government signed a separate royalty agreement involving prostratin in 2001 with the AIDS Research Alliance to return to the Samoan people 20 percent of commercial profits from any drug the alliance develops.

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