Bioinformatics in Latin America

Map of Latin America
CABANA will consolidate bioinformatics in Latin America. Credit: Spencer Phillips, EMBL-EBI

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CABANA will consolidate bioinformatics in Latin America, focussing on disease, food production and biodiversity

Despite its large population and significant crop and meat exports, Latin America’s research is severely underrepresented in genomics databases.

To support the region in reaching its full potential, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) is collaborating with nine research institutes in Latin America to launch the CABANA project. Funded by the Research Councils UK, CABANA aims to speed up the implementation of data-driven biology in Latin America. The first step is to create a training programme that facilitates bioinformatics capacity-building in the region, and that can be sustained over the long term.

Tailored training

CABANA will be the first international development project of this scale to come out of EMBL-EBI. It will initially run for just over four years. The programme’s activities will include research secondments, ‘train-the-trainer’ workshops, short courses and e-learning resources. These activities will empower researchers to use bioinformatics tools better and contribute more data to bioinformatics databases. In fact, one of the programme’s most important objectives is to strengthen existing research networks in the area.

Training will address three grand challenges identified in Latin America, all of which will benefit from more widespread use of bioinformatics – communicable disease, sustainable food production and protecting biodiversity.

A portal for open science

“Latin America has a lot to contribute to open science – the movement to make scientific research and data accessible to all levels of society,” explains Cath Brooksbank, Head of the EMBL-EBI Training Programme. “For the life sciences, the first step is to train researchers in using the multitude of bioinformatics tools available. This will allow researchers to ask and answer their research questions in a smarter, more efficient way. We hope that our partner institutes become the future nuclei in a network of bioinformatics expertise, by sharing and disseminating best practice.”

“Being part of the international bioinformatics community alongside EMBL-EBI has been transformative,” says Guilherme Oliveira, Biologist at the Vale Technology Institute in Brazil. “CABANA will allow us to provide high-quality training to many Latin-American countries and explore a wide range of research areas.”

Oliveira’s group works with Amazonian biodiversity. They conduct genomic analysis on plants, animals and microorganisms in this a relatively unknown, extremely diverse habitat.

“CABANA will help train a new generation of researchers with the necessary tools to uncover the secrets of the Amazon, and use the knowledge in conservation programmes and the development of bio-based green technologies,” Oliveira adds.

CABANA members

The CABANA consortium members include:

  • EMBL-EBI (United Kingdom)
  • The Centre for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (Mexico)
  • University of Costa Rica
  • Universidad de San Martín de Porres (Peru)
  • International Potato Centre (Peru)
  • Vale Technology Institute (Brazil)
  • University of Campinas (Brazil)
  • University of Buenos Aires (Argentina)
  • National Agricultural Technology Institute (Argentina)

The consortium is looking for more research partners in Latin America. For more information, contact Cath Brooksbank at EMBL-EBI.