– UNU-BIOLAC Organization


UNU-BIOLAC achieves its goals through the following activities:

  • Fellowships for research and training
  • Advanced courses for preparing/qualifying people who already awarded a bachelor degree
  • Research and training networks


 UNU-BIOLAC is located in Caracas, Venezuela. The office of the Programme is located at the Instituto de Estudios Avanzados (IDEA): a very privileged location within a mayor scientific complex and in the vicinity of the Simón Bolívar University, one of the most prestigious scientific educational institutions of the country.

  • Background:

The United Nations University Biotechnology Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNU-BIOLAC) was officially created in 1988 through an agreement between the Venezuelan Government and the United Nations University. Its creation was the initial step to impulse the establishment of an institute for the development of Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean, with headquarters in Venezuela.

UNU-BIOLAC is an autonomous institution that attempts to prepare/qualify professionals with superior education and to reinforce investigation. The activities are organized and executed in collaboration with scientific and academic institutions and organizations, as well as the collaboration of an international network of highly qualified researchers and academicians who are experts in biotechnology.

As component of the UNU, the UNU-BIOLAC Programme deals with preparation/qualification and research in a frame of interaction between science, technology, and society to formulate how modern biotechnology can encourage social and economic development.

  • People
    • Coordinator – Prof. José Luis Ramírez Ochoajose_luisR

Dr. José Luis Ramírez completed his college education at the School of Sciences from Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1969. In 1977 obtained his PhD degree from the Department of Biochemistry from the John Hopkins University. In his PhD thesis in Molecular Biology, animal mitochondrial DNA was cloned for the first time.

From 1977 until 1994 Dr. Ramírez worked as professor of Genetics and Biochemistry at the School of Sciences of the Universidad Central de Venezuela; organized the Molecular Genetics Research Group; and was head of the Department of Cell Biology from 1980 to 1981. In 1985 he founded the Graduate School in Cell Biology, and coordinated it until 1990. From 1995 until 1997 he was Visiting Professor at the Department of Pathobiology of the University of Washington and Invited Researcher at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. Since September 1997, he has been Full Professor and Researcher at UNU-BIOLAC’s host institution: Instituto de Estudios Avanzados — IDEA. He founded the Genetic Polymorphisms Laboratory of IDEA and was the Director of the Institute from 2000 to 2001.

In January 2000 Dr. Ramírez became the Coordinator of the UNU-BIOLAC Programme. His main research area has been Genomics, mostly in genomic organization and function of parasitic protozoa such as Leishmania and Trypanosoma.  Dr. Ramirez has published numerous papers on Leishmaniasis, Chaga’s disease and other parasitic infections and serves as a high level Advisor and permanent collaborator of the Central American Network of Tropical Diseases.

  • Advisor – Dr. Iván Galindo-Castro

Iván Galindo Castro completed his college education in Cell Biology at the Faculty of Sciences from Universidad Central de Venezuela (1988), and in 1992 obtained his Ph.D. degree in Molecular Cell Biology (with Honors) from Universidad Simón Bolívar (Caracas, Venezuela).

From 1987 until 2000, he worked as Senior Scientist at the Laboratory of Key Technologies, Polar Biotechnology Center (Brewing Industry), as the Head of the Molecular Biology Department. From 2000 until 2003 he had the position of Corporate Manager of Biotechnology at Polar Enterprises (Food Industry). In 2003 he joined the Instituto de Estudios Avanzados (IDEA) as Associate Scientist and founded the Laboratory of Genomics and Proteomics at the Biotechnology Center. He received the Venezuelan National Prize in Medicine (1994), has published more than 32 papers in peer-reviewed journals, is co-inventor in four USPTO utility patents, and has attended more than 47 scientific meetings. The main research areas of Dr. Galindo-Castro lies in the fields of molecular detection and identification of microorganisms, recombinant enzyme production and fermentation technology, agro-biotechnology, biosafety, and bioprospection of apoptosis-inducing natural compounds for cancer chemotherapy.

  • Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC):


Dr. Silvia Restrepo – Colombia

Term of office 2011- present

 Associate Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences,

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

 Dr. Silvia Restrepo has worked in Plant Pathology for the last 15 years. Her main concern has been to conduct research with a social relevance for 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% losses in young crops if the environment conditions are adequate, being the mayor biotic constraint on cassava production. Her intense study of the bacterial blight has now left a great deal of information on the disease, the resistance in cassava and disease management strategies. Nonetheless, her efforts on fighting 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 establishing 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

Term of office 2007- present

 Associate Professor of Biomathematics, School of Sciences from Universidad de la República, Uruguay.

 Fernando Álvarez Valín obtained his degree in Biology at the Faculty of Sciences from Universidad de la República (UdelaR) in 1989 and 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 from UdelaR. Since 2003, his position has been Associate Professor of Biomathematics at the School of Sciences from 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 5 book chapters in the field of genetics and molecular evolution. Since 2001, he has been serving as editor for the journal GENE (Elsevier).


Address and contact

    • Contact Person: María del Valle Bello. Assistant to the Coordinator.

e-mail: info.biolac@gmail.com Tel: +58 (212) 9621120 9621644 9621605 96202223

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