Discovering new biological resources

chance or reason

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/opinion


One argument for the conservation of biodiversity is that almost any species can turn out to be useful. Although this possibility has strong appeal, the identification of new biological resources has been considered too uncertain to as- sign anything but serendipity value to those species for which a use has not yet been found (McNeely 1990, Pearsall 1984). Pharmaceutical companies searching for new drugs have made a concerted effort to identify useful species. They have mounted massive screening programs in the hope that some- thing of commercial value will emerge. Recent reviews of new methods in the search for bioactive compounds and drugs emphasize the development of procedures that merely accelerate the screening process (Aldous 1991, Rinehart et al. 1990, Tyler 1986). These methods undoubtedly work, but the probability of success is low. It is time to explore the possibility that better deployment of the biological sciences can significantly increase the probability of success. In fact, the exploration for and the discovery of new bioresources should become a challenging biological discipline in its own right. Antibiotics from ants
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-292
Number of pages3
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1992

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