Bioprospecting has frequently been cited as a sustainable use of biodiversity. Nevertheless, the level of bioprospecting in biodiversity-rich tropical regions falls below its potential, with the result that bioprospecting has produced only limited economic benefits. We present a bioprospecting program that, in addition to promoting drug discovery, provides economic benefits to and promotes conservation in Panama through the sustainable use of biodiversity. The program was initiated using insights from 20 years of nonapplied ecological research to enhance the likelihood of finding treatments for human disease. Samples are not sent abroad; rather, most of the research is carried out in Panamanian laboratories. Panama has received immediate benefits for the use of its biodiversity in the form of research funding derived from sources outside Panama, training for young Panamanian scientists, and enhanced laboratory infrastructure. Over the long term, discoveries derived from bioprospecting may help to establish research-based industries in Panama.
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Vol. 56 • No. 12