Preserving Humanity and Our Medicines Relies on Conserving Our Planet’s Biodiversity Now

Preserving Humanity and Our Medicines Relies on Conserving Our Planet’s Biodiversity Now

Planet Earth is currently experiencing its sixth mass extinction, a brief period of geological time marked by vast biodiversity loss. This extinction is largely caused by human activity linked to unsustainable use of land, water and energy (1). We can’t afford to lose Earth’s biodiversity, as we rely on its life-sustaining resources to produce food, fuel, raw material, and nearly every product in the modern world, including new medicines necessary for our survival. 

Human health depends on a robust pharmaceutical industry that protects us from the burden of disease through the creation of new therapies. By most metrics, current approaches aren’t working

What if there were some ideas that are highly validated to deliver new medicines, yet were still largely untapped for their full potential? 

Unbeknownst to most, a significant percentage of commonly used medications are derived from biodiversity and have their roots in the traditional medical practices of indigenous communities (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. Commonly used drugs and their natural sources

An estimated >33% of FDA approved small molecules are derived from natural sources, but significantly less than one percent of the chemical composition of the natural world has ever been identified or studied in the lab (2, 3). At Enveda, we believe – and are demonstrating – that building a sustainable pharmaceutical industry relies on preserving and restoring Earth’s biodiversity. Nature’s chemistry is a vast resource of molecules created by biology for influencing biology, and thus represents a trove of bioactive compounds, and as such, therapeutics. As we describe in more detail in this blog post,  we have built artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that enable the rapid and scalable identification and characterization of new molecules, tapping into the remaining 99% of Earth’s chemical space that has never before been accessible to science. Through this unparalleled screening of bioactive compounds from plants for drug development, we have created a robust pipeline of 15+ programs with incredible efficiency, with three novel medicines expected to enter the clinic next year (Figure 2). Our array of plant-derived programs validate our urgency to preserve biodiversity. 

Figure 2. Enveda’s growing pipeline

Enveda’s AI Knowledge Graph (KG) enables identification of bioactive drug compounds, conservation of nature’s chemistry, and benefit-sharing with local and indigenous communities

There are millions of natural resources on Earth that lack robust profiling and conservation of their chemical composition and their associated traditional usage. Climate change and biodiversity loss threaten natural resources that likely hold the keys to novel medicines, unique agrochemicals, and other unknown benefits. We are in a race against time to conserve this chemical information before it is lost forever. 

With our Knowledge Graph, as detailed in this blog post, we are profiling biodiversity’s chemical content and capturing ethnobotanical data. But beyond its scientific utility, our Knowledge Graph creates a map to support biodiversity conservation and allows us to provide an avenue for indigenous and local communities to preserve ethnobotanical knowledge while simultaneously unlocking economic value through natural resource mobilization. Enveda’s Knowledge Graph is the world’s largest computable database of ethnobotany, including 38,000 plants, 11,000 diseases and more than 20,000,000 connections between disease mechanisms and plant chemistry (Figure 3). Our database is extremely powerful and enables us to:  

  • Identify plants with medically-relevant active compounds, their associated disease applications and the geographic locations the plants are found, thus guiding targeted conservation of plants and ecosystems containing valuable bioactive compounds. 
  • Digitally capture traditional medicine knowledge in their correct context to enable fair benefit-sharing following successful commercialization of new medicines derived from the use of such knowledge.   

Enveda’s suite of AI technologies allows us to profile and archive Planet Earth’s chemical biodiversity and provides an invaluable resource to our partners (e.g., indigenous communities, biodiversity conservation organizations, government environment organizations) for cataloguing and monitoring their regional chemical biodiversity. 

Figure 3. Enveda’s Knowledge Graph (KG) enables identification of active compounds, their plant sources, geographic locations, and known traditional usage to promote fair benefit-sharing (4). 

Enveda is forming global partnerships and engaging in policy advocacy to conserve biodiversity for the development of new medicines

The future of Planet Earth relies on a global collective effort to conserve biodiversity. At Enveda, we recognize:

  • The unique opportunity enabled by our platform to digitally conserve the chemical fingerprints of our ecosystems before they perish. 
  • The incredible opportunity to generate local and global incentives as well as narratives for the preservation of our ecosystems through our work to create some of the most sought-after and valuable products in the world.   
  • The urgency to preserve traditional medicine knowledge, conserve biodiversity, and contribute to building sustainable biotechnology capacity worldwide. 
  • The opportunity to partner with nations to mobilize and unlock the unrealized economic incentives of their natural resources while maintaining equitable Access and Benefit-Sharing policies. 

As we partner with global stakeholders to map the chemistry of biodiversity for the discovery of new medicines, we pledge to (Figure 4): 

  • Support biodiversity initiatives identified by local and global environmental organizations. 
  • Co-develop favorable frameworks that align with policies implemented by the Convention on Biological Diversity such as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
  • Share monetary and non-monetary benefits to partner nations and local and indigenous communities.

Figure 4. Enveda’s global partnership model promotes fair benefit-sharing and biodiversity conservation  

As we continue our adventures, we welcome new collaborations with biodiversity organizations and environmental stakeholders who want to document the chemistry of their biodiversity with Enveda. Visit our website to learn more about Enveda or contact me (Director of Policy & Development), directly

Sources: 1, 2, 3  4

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