About the Biotechnology Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNU-BIOLAC)

Caracas — Venezuela

Mission & Vision
  • The United Nations University Biotechnology Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNU-BIOLAC) was officially established in 1988 by an agreement between the Venezuelan Government and the United Nations University. Its creation was an initial step towards the establishment of an institute dedicated to the development of biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean, with headquarters in Venezuela.

    UNU-BIOLAC undertakes training and research at the intersection of science, technology, and society to envision how modern biotechnology can encourage social and economic development.

    The programme’s aim is to prepare and qualify professionals through higher education. Activities are organized and executed in collaboration with scientific institutions and an international network of highly qualified academics and researchers that are experts in biotechnology.


    • Providing fellowships for research and training
    • Offering advanced courses for holders of a bachelor degree
    • Harnessing the research and training opportunities within the UNU-BIOLAC network
  • Mission

    The mission of UNU-BIOLAC is to promote and encourage the application of biotechnology for the development of Latin America and the Caribbean through training, knowledge generation and research focused on solving the critical problems of the region. In order to fulfill this mission and to reduce the unequal distribution of practical knowledge in the region, our goals are:

    • Coordinate and promote research to improve social and economic welfare.
    • Encourage advanced research and specialized training for professionals, and the diffusion of knowledge on biotechnology and related topics.
    • Focus on facilitating knowledge transfer among researchers and technicians within and beyond the region.


    UNU-BIOLAC aims to be an international centre of biotechnology in cooperation with advanced institutions in the region dedicated to knowledge creation, training, the development of essential competencies, and to producing solutions which can transform Latin American and Caribbean societies through contributing to their development, and elevating social consciousness and higher education, in accordance with the mission of UNU to resolve to pressing global issues that are of concern to the United Nations, its Peoples, and its Member States.

  • The goals of UNU-BIOLAC are to:

    • Promote and disseminate biotechnology as a discipline that contributes to the economic and sustainable development, and the competitive capacity of the region.
    • Provide and encourage discussions to define the Latin American and Caribbean position regarding bioethics in a local and global context.
    • Contribute to the formulation of a regulatory system for biosafety, in consideration of the singularities of each country of the region.
    • Plan the activities of the programme and policy outcomes in consideration of the region’s current necessities regarding training and research on biotechnology.
    • Encourage projects that produce tangible results and are oriented towards solving practical problems by applying biotechnology to agriculture, health, biological diversity and food.
    • Form the link between universities, institutions, and the private sector of developed countries to allow the transfer of advanced biotechnology to counterparts in the region.
    • Extend the training of different biotechnological disciplines to individuals in the private sector and government employees involved in activities related to biotechnology.
    • Measure the impact of the programme in the development of institutions and professionals to which support has been given.
    • Ramírez Ochoa, José
      José Ramírez Ochoa
      Programme Coordinator of the United Nations University Programme for Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNU-BIOLAC)



    Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)

    Dr. Luisana Avilán – Venezuela
    Professor, Universidad de los Andes, Venezuela
    Term of office 2010–present

    Dr. Avilán received a licentiate degree in biology from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and a doctorate in molecular biophysics from Denis Diderot (Paris VII) University in France. She presently serves as professor at the Universidad de los Andes in Venezuela.

    Her research interest includes parasite metabolism and host-pathogen interactions mechanisms. Her other work experience includes protein-protein interaction mechanisms.

    Dr. Silvia Restrepo – Colombia
    Associate Professor, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
    Term of office 2011–present

    Dr. Silvia Restrepo has worked in plant pathology for the last 15 years. Her main concern has been to conduct research with social relevance to Colombia and other developing countries. She has been involved in several studies of the most important casual agents of diseases in cassava and potatoes. It is estimated that more than 500 people depend on cassava in the world according to FAO statistics. The cassava bacterial blight caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. manihodis (Xam) may cause a 100% loss in young crops if the environmental conditions are adequate, being the mayor biotic constraint on cassava production. Her intense study of the bacterial blight has now created a great deal of information on the disease, the resistance in cassava and disease management strategies. Nonetheless, her efforts to fight the disease are far from over. Currently, she is involved in new projects to monitor the bacterial populations, sequence the Xam genome, and to develop new control strategies. Her scientific cooperation with the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) is still active through Ecos Nord – Colciencias Program, and also through the establishmnt of an exchange program for students and researchers between Universidad de los Andes and IRD.

    Dr. Restrepo received her PhD at University of the Sciences Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris VI, Paris, France.

    Dr. Fernando Álvarez-Valín – Uruguay
    Associate Professor of Biomathematics, School of Sciences, Universidad de la República, Uruguay
    Term of office 2007–present

    Fernando Álvarez Valín obtained his degree in biology at the Faculty of Sciences at the Universidad de la República (UdelaR) in 1989 and a PhD in biology in PEDECIBA in 1998, in Montevideo, Uruguay. He studied for his postdoctorate in the laboratory of Molecular Evolution at the Stazione Anton Dorhn, Naples between 1998 and 1999. Since then, he has been working in close collaboration with this laboratory.

    In Uruguay, he worked as Assistant Professor of Genetics in the School of Medicine and in the School of Sciences at UdelaR. Since 2003, his position has been Associate Professor of Biomathematics at the School of Sciences at UdelaR where he leads a research group devoted to topics of molecular evolution and genomics, and is responsible for several research projects and PhD students.

    Álvarez-Valín is author of more than 30 scientific publications and five book chapters in the field of genetics and molecular evolution. Since 2001, he has been serving as editor for the journal GENE (Elsevier).

    Dr. Fabricio González-Andrade – Ecuador
    Term of office 2012–present

    Dr. Fabricio González is a physician-scientist specializing in medical genetics, forensic medicine and public health. He has wide experience leading national and international research projects. In the last years, his scientific interest has been expanded to the field of community health, especially the application of science to solve the main public health problems of local communities, using the principles of evidence based medicine in the medical decision-making process. He has been internationally recognized as an enthusiastic and important researcher in Latin America. Currently, he is leading the development and building of the first national research centre in genetics and public health in Ecuador.

    Dr. González obtained his degree as a medical doctor in 1996 at the School of Medicine of the Universidad Central del Ecuador. In 2002, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Departament of Pathology, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology from the Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain and obtained a DAS (Diploma of Advanced Studies) in Genetics, and In 2006 he obtained finished a PhD at the same institution and a Major in Medical Genetics and Forensic Medicine. He was granted with the Extraordinary Prize of Doctorate and graduated summa cum laude.

    Dr. Gonzalez has performed 45 peer-reviews in 16 different peer-reviewed international journals: Human Biology; American Journal of Human Biology; Journal of Medical Virology; International Journal of Nanomedicine; Acta Biológica Colombiana; Croatian Medical Journal; Biologics: Targets & Therapy; International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; International Journal of General Medicine; Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management; Vascular Health and Risk Management; Clinical Epidemiology; International Journal of Physical Sciences; The Application of Clinical Genetics; Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine; and Neurobehavioral HIV Medicine.


    United Nations University
    Biotechnology Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean

    María del Valle Bello.
    e-mail: info.biolac@gmail.com

    Carretera Nacional Hoyo de la Puerta. Instituto de Estudios Avanzados IDEA.
    Edificio Bolívar.
    Piso 3.
    Oficina UNU-BIOLAC.
    Caracas, Estado Miranda, 1080.

    T: +58 (212) 9621120
    +58 (212) 9621644
    +58 (212) 9621605
    F: +58 (212) 96202223
    E-mail: info.biolac@gmail.com