Cancer drug derived from rainforest shrub set for human trials


A potential cancer drug developed from an Australian rainforest plant is set to progress to human trials, reports the Strait Times.

Quoting the AFP wires, the newspaper explains that the drug is being put forward to the next stage after fighting off inoperable tumours in pets.

Queensland firm QBiotics Limited said its EBC-46, derived from the seeds of a tropical rainforest shrub, was ready to be tested on humans after successfully treating solid tumours in more than 100 dogs, cats and horses.

“We’ve treated over 150 animals… with a variety of tumours, and we’re prepared to move into human studies,” explained chief executive Victoria Gordon.

Dr Gordon said the results so far indicated the drug could work to counter a range of malignant growths, such as skin cancers, head and neck cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

She said the drug works like a detonator inside tumours, prompting inactive beneficial white cells to begin to fight and destroy the cancer.

The company is reported as spending six years developing the drug since the previously unknown molecule in the native Australian plant blushwood was discovered.

It hopes to raise enough funds to begin human trials in 2011.

Dr Gordon said the compound proves the value of retaining Australia’s unique tropical rainforests.

Source: The Strait Times (Singapore)/AFP

Date: 14/06/2010

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Australian bushfires raise questions over forest strategies


Fire experts say inadequate fuel reduction strategies in Victoria’s forests may have contributed to the weekend disaster, The Age reports.

Rapid population growth on Melbourne’s fringes may also have been a factor in the high toll, one expert said.

But as Victoria reeled in disbelief at the scale of the disaster, most debate centred on whether to review the decades-old policy of allowing people to defend their homes.

Announcing a Royal Commission, the state’s premier, John Brumby, said the policy of “leave early or stay and defend property” would come under scrutiny.

“It’s served us well for 20 years or more,” Mr Brumby told Radio 3AW. “It’s not true to say that of the fire on Saturday.

“There were many people who had done all of the preparations, had the best fire plans in the world and tragically it didn’t save them.”

But former police ministers Andre Haermeyer and Pat McNamara dismissed one of the alternatives to “stay and fight”, which are forced evacuations.

Mr Haermeyer said that many of the people that had been killed in the fires has been as prepared as they could have been.

“This fire turned so quickly and with such a force, you wonder what systems, what procedures could have given people the chance to get out,” he said.

Mr McNamara added that many people appeared to have died fleeing the bushfires by car, a situation that could have been made worse by forced evacuations.

He said more clearing of native vegetation should be allowed to create a larger buffer between houses and fires.

A former chief of community safety, Naomi Brown, said forced evacuations in the face of bushfires were a simplistic response that could put people in more danger.

“You could have said to everybody on Friday you have to move out, but you don’t know where the fire is going to be,” she said.

Ms Brown, who is chief executive at the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, warned about jumping to conclusions on fire policy while the fires still burned across Victoria.

“There are a lot of opinions and assumption, but not a lot in the way of evidence,” she said.

One reason why the death toll at the weekend was worse than “Ash Wednesday” (4 Feb 2009), she said, was the increase in people living on the outskirts of Melbourne in the past 25 years.

Fire and community safety experts have raised questions about whether the amount of fuel in the bush in some areas, such as Kinglake, worsened the impact of the fires.

Monash University research fellow and bushfire specialist David Packham laid much of the blame for the devastation on extremely high fuel loads in Victorian forests.

“There has been total mismanagement of the Australian forest environment,” he said.

Source: The Age website

Date: 10/02/2009

Investor creates first ‘tropical biodiversity credits’


An Australian investment company has launched what it describes as the first tropical biodiversity credit scheme, Mongabay.com reports.

New Forests, a Sydney-based firm, has established the Malua Wildlife Habitat Conservation Bank in Malaysia as an attempt to raise funds for rainforest conservation.

The “Malua BioBank” will use an investment from a private equity fund to restore and protect 34,000 hectares (80,000 acres) of formerly logged forest.

The area will seve as a buffer between biological-rich forest reserve and oil palm plantations.

The credit scheme will generate “Biodiversity Conservation Certificates”, which wil be sold to bankroll a perpetual conservation trust and produce a return on investment for the Sabah Government and the private equity fund.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 13/08/2008

Australia establishes largest tropical forest park


Mongabay.com reports that Australia will protect its most pristine rainforest after a battle of almost 20 years between conservationists and land owners, according to a statement from the government of Queensland.

The 160,000-hectare Kulla National Park is located in the McIlwraith Ranges on the Cape York peninsula and contains the largest tropical rainforest in Australia.

The forest houses 57% of Australia’s butterflies and is seen by scientists as a critical refuge for biodiversity against the impact of climate change.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 06/08/2008

Statistic: Forest carbon storage


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has used the figure of 217 tonnes of carbon per hectare stored in forests.

But, says Australia’s North Coast Environment Council, this is a serious underestimate with older forests providing from 640-2000 tonnes of carbon stored per hectare.

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