In an agreement that is being lauded as a model for drugs developed from ethnobotany efforts, the University of California at Berkeley and the tiny Pacific Ocean island nation of Samoa will share equally in royalties from the sales of an anti-AIDS drug derived from the genes of the Samoan native mamala tree, it was announced yesterday (September 30).

"What's so important about this agreement is that the University of California is recognizing the intellectual contribution of the healers of Samoa and considers them a partner in this endeavor," Jay Keasling, a professor of chemical engineering at Berkeley, told The Scientist. Keasling will be leading the research to isolate and clone the genes responsible for producing the drug in the mamala tree, which he said would lead to microbial production of it.

Prostratin is extracted from the bark of the tree and has long been used by native...

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