Bioprospecting and Incentives for Biodiversity Conservation: Lessons from the History of Paclitaxel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Plants and other organisms remain an important source of new medicines, either directly or as sources of molecular building blocks or information for drug development. Bioprospecting contracts between pharmaceutical companies and species-rich source countries have been touted as a way for developing countries to capture greater gains from their genetic resources and to increase their incentives to preserve their biodiversity. This case study of the discovery and commercial development of the anticancer drug paclitaxel from the Pacific yew tree highlights neglected issues in debates over bioprospecting and conservation incentives. Paclitaxel’s discovery, commercialization, and resource use illustrate how bioprospecting can substitute one biodiversity threat (habitat conversion, when genetic resources are not valued) for another threat (overharvesting, when they are valued). Whether creation of market demand for genetic resources encourages or discourages biodiversity conservation depends crucially on underlying property rights and management regimes for common property resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNatural Resource Management and Policy
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameNatural Resource Management and Policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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