Change & Innovation

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 4: The Digital Forest

Mauro Rebelo (Brazil ’14) hangs suspended from the trees collecting DNA samples of rain forest species.

The Digital Forest, led by Mauro Rebelo (Brazil ’14), Professor at Instituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas Filho, aims to sequence all of the species from the Atlantic forest, one of the main biodiversity hot-spots in the planet. The estimated market of pharmaceuticals derived from this tropical forest is US$110 billion, yet the life-saving potential of the forest remains untapped. The goal of the Digital Forest is to digitize endangered species, document their genetic code to protect them, and open up opportunities to address the sustainability goals of the United Nations to guarantee our existence on the planet in the future.

The Digital Forest solves this problem by digitizing the forest: converting the chemical and biological information of plants to digital data. With that data, they not only use artificial intelligence to find and select metadata that validates and aggregates value to the biological data, but also run simulations that save time and money in product development.

In 2017, Mauro won the EF iLab competition in Malaga, Spain, at the Future of Work Global Conference for his breakthrough work with the Digital Forest project. He connects the acceleration of product discovery and development for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and biotech from the Atlantic rain forest with the growth of PhD scientists contributing to the overall GDP of Brazil. Watch him deliver his winning project talk here.

Mauro Rebelo (Brazil ’14) presenting his winning project, the Digital Forest, at the EF Future of Work Global Conference in Malaga, Spain.

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