Amazon Biobank: preserving the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest with Blockchain

amazon-biobank

The preservation of the Amazon Rainforest has been a matter of intense debate for decades, and its role in planetary health has been intensified in the last years. At the heart of the debate, there are two opposing views on how the region should be explored for economic purposes: on the one hand, there is a vision focused on keeping parts of the forest untouched, and profit solely from its indirect benefits (e.g., weather regulation and rain production); on the other hand, there are those who advocate resource-intensive activities in the region, like agriculture and mining.

The goal of this research project, which is part of the Amazon 4.0 initiative led by Carlos Nobre and Ismael Nobre, is to promote a third way to handle the issue: to turn the abundant biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest into a source of wealth, by leveraging the growing interest of the biotechnology industry and scientists in genomic data. To build such a biobank with genetic information from the Amazon Rainforest and traditional knowledge from its local communities, we combine different collaborative technologies, in particular Blockchain for data tokenization and peer-to-peer solutions for data sharing/processing. Besides promoting the healthy exploration of the resources and biodiversity in the area, creating “biocoins” for those who collaborate with the system with information or processing/bandwidth capabilities, the platform also protects the intellectual property of participants via smart-contracts.

In a preliminary study, a proof-of-concept architecture was built using Hyperledger Fabric for the underlying Blockchain, Express.js to write web applications and smart-contracts, Bittorrent for secure data sharing, and Basecalling for DNA processing. Part of our implementation roadmap also includes interfacing with other cryptocurrencies, such as Ripple XRP and Filecoin, for a more flexible exchange of biocoins.

In summary, the final goal of the research project is to develop a robust infrastructure for collecting, storing, processing, and distributing DNA data, enabling the sustainable exploitation of biodiversity-rich regions like the Amazon Rainforest. The system is expected to stimulate the local economy via the tokenization of biodiversity-related information, motivate the protection of the forest’s biodiversity by the local communities, while also creating a rich data repository that is useful for both academic and commercial purposes.

 

This research project has the participation of researchers with different backgrounds, including the climatologist Carlos Nobre, the biologists Ismael Nobre and Bruno de Medeiros, and the computer engineers that are responsible for building the technology behind the scenes, Marcos A. Simplicio Jr. and Tereza C. Carvalho, besides relying on consultants from the law and economics fields. The pilot project, being developed at the Universidade de Sao Paulo, is supported by the University Blockchain Initiative (UBRI).

Contact information at Escola Politecnica, Universidade de Sao Paulo: Prof. Dr. Marcos A. Simplicio Jr. <mjunior(at)larc.usp.br> and Prof. Dr. Tereza C. M. B. Carvalho <carvalho(at)usp.br>.

Research papers:

  • Leonardo T. Kimura, Ewerton R. Andrade, Tereza C. M. B. Carvalho, Marcos A. Simplicio Jr. (2021) Amazon Biobank: sustainable development built upon rainforest’s biodiversity. 2021 Planetary Health Annual Meeting and Festival  – Abstracts. Available: https://www.planetaryhealthannualmeeting.com/abstracts.

See also:

 

Last update: 10-Feb-2021, by Prof. Dr. Marcos A. Simplicio Jr.