The morning discussion about partnerships in the Reaching End User session linked nicely into Joe Tohme’s presentation about a Latin American and Caribbean Biotechnology platform. Joe concedes the idea is not new, having been discussed for several years but it has now been pushed forward in the new strategic plan, based on broad consultation with regional partners like Foragro, Corpoica, Embrapa and Catie.
Joe started by highlighting the fact that we are talking about a LAC platform, not a CIAT platform for biotechnology research, services, and capacity building. The LAC region is rich in diversity, and provides important sources of income to the poor, but the region faces problems related to its poor collections, its weak knowledge base, little technical expertise, production constraints, and a lack of infrastructure.
The region's biotechnology work has focused mainly on highly-industrialized crops, like coffee or sugar cane so far. Joe pointed out that potential investors need more information about what is available in terms of collections, and what the nutritional and economic value is. The platform will respond to specific scientific needs (breeding, phenotypic characterization, access to genomic facilities, bioinformatics...), train the next generation of LAC researchers (a key area) and enhance LAC competitiveness. Joe believes CIAT is well positioned to host this platform and paid tribute to the excellent Colombian staff, and the organization's proven capacity to develop and exploit genomics and cellular technologies.
The platform will have two structural components, which will take several years to develop: a policy / intellectual property platform, and a technical platform.
The key elements for delivery are partnerships and the “dream team” in about 10 years should include strong breeding capacity with knowledge of genomic tools, linked to efficient phenotypic characterization, and access to genomic tools at national regional.
Next steps include an upgrade of CIAT’s infrastructure and fundraising for CIAT AND our partners to establish different components.
By Simone Steiger