Nataly Allasi Canales

About

Being surrounded by the Amazonian biodiversity as a child, I have always felt fascinated by nature and its complexity, which led me to study Genetics and Biotechnology in Universidad San Marcos (UNMSM, Peru). Missing my hometown's thrilling endemic species, I volunteered to work in a serpentarium at the Natural History Museum of Peru where we would analyze their venom for further pharmaceutical use.

During those years, I also developed a strong interest in using bioinformatics tools to answer biological questions. Therefore, my undergraduate research was focused on predicting vaccine candidates for pneumonic pasteurellosis infecting alpaca; using comparative genomics analyses, we were able to successfully identify an antigen that now is been patented and ready to be used by farmers.

As I saw how bioinformatics is a powerful tool both for analyses and low-cost research, I decided to pursue a Master's degree in Bioinformatics in Fujian Nonglin University (FAFU, China). During this transition, I did not only change settings and re-wired my brain completely, but also my research switched to crops, more specifically, rice. My thesis aimed to identify non-synonymous beneficial mutations present only in wild rice varieties to finally insert those mutations in cultivated ones by examining the evolution of resistant (R) genes in several Oryza genomes.

For this new stage, I am really excited to be able to blend two of my biggest passions - history and biology. In short, we are working with museum collections and see the stories behind them. As part of the Plant.ID network, I am based at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, working on the "Paleogenomic annotation of historical Cinchona bark samples across time and space" project, which has a special meaning for me since Cinchona is the Peruvian national tree - it can be seen in our flag and was and is still used to treat malaria for hundreds of years.

Our main objective is to identify to which species and localities the collections belong to. To tackle these questions, we are working with a team of experts in their field and making use of state-of-the-art molecular, genomic, and bioinformatic techniques to deal with ancient DNA of our precious Cinchona bark collections. In this sense, I also will be closely collaborating with ESR11, ESR12, and ESR13.