About us

CABANA is a capacity strengthening project for bioinformatics in Latin America. It aims to accelerate the implementation of data-driven biology in the region by creating a sustainable capacity-building programme. CABANA is orchestrated by an international consortium of ten organisations - nine in Latin America and one in the UK.

  • CABANA is helping to accelerate data-driven biology in Latin America by introducing a sustainable programme for building capacity in the region

  • CABANA's international and uniquely broad range of activities is addressing the training needs of Latin America's diverse biological and biomedical sciences communities

  • CABANA will accelerate the use of bioinformatics in lead institutions in the region, which will become hubs in a pan-Latin-American bioinformatics network.

  • It is strengthening international cooperation and developing cross-border collaborations to support improved access to bioinformatics tools and resources, better quality information management, and improved discoverability and annotation of biological data pertaining to our three challenge areas. 

  • CABANA is funded by Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) - part of the UK Aid Budget – from October 2017 to December 2021.


CABANA's three challenge areas

Data-driven biology promises to have a major impact on health, agriculture and environmental management. CABANA will focus on three challenges. These challenges are of global significance, but of particular relevance in Latin America: communicable disease, sustainable food production and protection of biodiversity. 

Communicable disease

Latin America needs to find solutions to fight neglected tropical diseases such as Zika, Chikungunya, malaria and dengue. Such solutions might follow the path taken to tackle other major diseases like Ebola in Africa. A UK research-led project has been fundamental in the knowledge of the virus, the following of epidemic events, limiting the spreading of the disease and the development of treatments and the initiation of projects to develop a vaccine. A significant part of this project was the sequencing and bioinformatics analysis of isolates from the virus taken in several African countries affected by the disease. 

In addition to understanding the genomic makeup of pathogens, sequence variations in the host organism can have a major impact on susceptibility to infection and/or the severity of the eventual outcome. Analysis of human genome data submitted to public databases shows that populations of African and Latin American descent, Hispanics, and indigenous people are barely represented in genomics studies. Given the need to have genome data from those populations for the development of precision medicine in clinical practice, it is necessary to boost the collection of genomics data in Latin American populations.

Sustainable food production

Latin America is a major producer and exporter of meat, fruit, vegetables, cocoa and coffee. Biofuel production is also growing, with sugarcane being a major source. These industries are crucial for the development of the region, yet put huge pressure on Latin America’s unparalleled biodiversity, which is not only of enormous importance in its own right but also contributes to economic prosperity through ecotourism. Data-driven biology can facilitate the production of crops and livestock that are more resilient to environmental challenges.

For example, the presence of high-coverage, well-annotated genomic data in public data resources such as Ensembl, Ensembl Genomes and PhytoPath enables agri-food researchers to answer questions such as: which genes influence muscle mass, quality and flavour in livestock and fish; which genes influence a crop’s potential value as a source of biofuels or as biomass; which genes influence susceptibility to pests or to extreme environments and which pathways influence the nutritional value of food products? If the increase in global temperatures continues, it will become imperative to develop crops that are resilient to drought, sunshine depletion, high rainfall and emerging pests and diseases. The region has several genetic pools from cultivated plants that can be searched for resistant varieties adapted to the changing climate conditions - particularly those in tropical regions. By actively involving the Latin American research population in capturing, annotating and analysing these data, we will build lasting collaborations that will support future research-led development of the food industry. 

Protection of biodiversity

Latin American countries harbour over 30% of the world’s biodiversity. We have the technology to study this vast biodiversity in a fast, efficient and cost-effective way that will drive the sustainable use of plants, microbes, and other species endemic to this part of the world, and will give us real-time information enabling us to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable areas. Economic growth and development often are in direct conflict with the preservation of the region’s unique natural history.

Only by understanding the impact on biodiversity of human-driven activities such as intensive farming and urbanisation can we find a balance between these conflicting areas. Projects that compare the metagenome or the metatranscriptome over time or under different environmental conditions will help us to make rational, evidence-based choices for sustainable development in our target countries. 


CABANA is governed by an Executive Group and an Independent Advisory Group.

Executive Group

Independent Advisory Group

Work Streams

  • Project coordinator (Cath Brooksbank, UK)
  • Co-coordinator (Marco Cristancho, CO)
  • 5 National leads (AR, BR, CO, MX, PE)
  • Project manager (Ian Willis, UK)
  • Project officer (BBSRC, UK)
  • Ethics expert
  • Inclusivity expert
  • One expert on each challenging topic
  • Training/ career development expert
  • Representation from related GCRF project(s)
  • Research Secondments (Jan Kreuze, PE)
  • Train-the-trainer (Adrian Turjanski, AR)
  • Workshops (Guilherme Oliveira, BR)
  • eLearning resources (Alejandro Reyes, CO)
  • Dissemination & outreach (Cath Brooksbank, UK).
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