IOCD began by recognising why it has been so difficult to pursue chemistry and related sciences
in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the past. By the 1980s, many chemists from LMICs
had been, or were being, trained in research in universities in high-income countries, but found it
difficult to engage in productive and rewarding careers in research in the growing number of
university chemistry departments in their home countries. Common problems included lack of access to
funds, laboratory supplies and equipment and difficulty in staying abreast of the latest advances in
their fields. IOCD's initial response was a twin track approach of active research support and
capacity building, achieved through the operation of its scientific working groups (WGs) and
analytical service centres.
Over time, IOCD's strategic approach evolved in tune with the changing landscape, concentrated
increasingly on capacity building at institutional and national levels. Since the advent of the UN
Sustainable Development Goals, IOCD's orientation now focuses strongly on how the chemical
sciences can contribute more effectively to sustainability and equity in global development.
Impact Of IOCD
Overall, the impact of IOCD has been to help highlight the importance of the chemical sciences as
contributors to development; to raise the profile of the field and its practitioners; to initiate,
promote or sustain a number of technical, managerial, policy and collaborative networks and projects
advancing chemical sciences in LMICs; and to contribute to vital resources for teaching, learning
IOCD has a strong record of achievement since its foundation in 1981:
- As the first international NGO specifically devoted to enhancing the role of the chemical
sciences in development, IOCD helped raise awareness of the importance of the field at
national and international levels and the profile of chemists and their contributions to
development in LMICs. This was aided by success in attracting prominent chemists to IOCD's
cause, including the Presidents (two Nobel laureates), Council (included four additional
Nobel laureates) and WG leaders and members.
- The early work by the Male Fertility Regulation and Tropical Diseases WGs was valued by
international partners (including the two World Health Organization Special Programmes for
research in fertility regulation and tropical diseases; UN Population Fund, Walter Reed Army
Institute; and USA CONRAD programme) and helped raise awareness of these neglected areas
while providing LMIC synthesis groups opportunities to undertake medicinal chemistry.
- The later WGs in the areas of medicinal chemistry, natural products, the environment and
bioprospecting made important contributions to training, capacity building and networking,
attracting support and collaboration from international agencies such as the International
Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and from the private sector. The work to enhance
LMIC capacities and develop national frameworks for sustainable, ethical bioprospecting has
impacted on policy making.
- IOCD's analytical services gave essential support to many chemists striving to conduct
isolation, structure elucidation and synthesis work in resource-poor settings. Successful
localization as NABSA (Network for Analytical and Bioassay Services in Africa) has ensured
that national and regional work is being sustained in service provision and in capacity
building at individual, institutional and system levels.
- Contributions have been made to strengthening teaching capacities through the creation and
dissemination of web-based open and distance learning materials in organic and medicinal
chemistry, donations of books and computers and support for micro-scale laboratory kits
which enable science to be taught where resources and chemical supplies are very
- IOCD's new action group on Chemists for Sustainability has generated more than twenty
articles that have been well received, focusing on the future role of the chemical sciences
and stimulating debate on how the chemical sciences need to be re-shaped to make their