Setting up shop as a botanical research laboratory in the Amazon is no mean feat. The tropical city of Iquitos, with over half a million people in the middle of the Amazon basin, has many amenities, but internet bandwidth and state-of-the-art analytical labs are not among them. Putting together the right equipment, operators, and permissions is a jungle. Our years of networking with people and agencies oftentimes siloed in proprietary departments or otherwise obscure, have enabled us to establish a clear path forward for our bioprospecting research.
Sending lab work out to Lima or beyond, the ordinary way of doing things now, is costly and time-consuming. We have woven together the pieces of an effective analytical supply chain and are (as of August 2021) ready to begin our botanical survey work in earnest, with our first clients lined up. We help our clients and partners move their ideas and needs into a scope of work and project proposal, build a development budget, and bring the right team of experts on board. We assist with intellectual property and export chain of custody, guiding from inception to export. And we do it all with the highest bioethical standards.
As we build an endowment for the Schultes Center and develop its commercial counterpart, Pharmazonia, we aim always to add value to each link of our product development chain, from sustainable harvest and harvester training to the highest possible laboratory standards, to our innovative pay-it-forward investment in education program. Our motto of “Investigacion y Integracion” (Research and Integration) indicates that we approach our work as an intellectual and economic ecosystem, valuing the parts and the whole, the plants, people, and environment that connect us all.
While the initial projects and species we are working with remain confidential with our particular clients, we also look toward publishing results in the appropriate journals and online here on our website as appropriate. We don’t believe in plant patents, but we appreciate the sunk costs that can go into research and development and respect the values of our client relationships.
Ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology, the starting points for our work, offer from folk knowledge and the personal research of particular curanderos the substantive “clues” from which we begin. Gathering and synthesizing this informal information and a thorough scientific literature search together provide our bioprospecting platform, from anthropology to biochemistry. It really is an excellent mosaic of data, like looking down on the immense Amazon system from above, fine green details outlining trends, the unseen supporting and defining the sinuous flow of knowledge.
We want to think that the late great Richard Evans Schultes looks down favorably upon our work, which to a great extent has gone beyond his and others’ encounters and familiarization with indigenous cultures to a modern scientific look into the depths of plant physiology, with a continuous and practical interest in helping humanity while preserving Nature.
A Proposed Research and Development Center associated with the Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana (UNAP) rural science campus outside Iquitos, Peru
In June 2019, Michael Maki was introduced to an available 3-hectare property at Nina Rumi on the Nanay River, outside of Iquitos, Peru, and located as an inholding within the 70,000-hectare campus complex of the Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana (UNAP). We have begun building a startup project management team to acquire and develop this site into a research campus, The Richard Evans Schultes Center for Amazonian Ethnobotanical Research (RESCAER).
This Amazon Basin and Rio Nanay riverfront site, a former rural health complex that began construction in 2000 and closed five years ago before completion, will become a center where plant medicine and associated research and development work can take place in both an academic and comfortable natural setting. Its residential element can provide both housing for visiting faculty and students (and investment partners) and a place where visitors who have come for therapeutic plant medicine treatment can have a clean, quiet place for aftercare and further reflection.
Our Rio Nanay dock is also the departure point for an hour boat trip to the Ayahuasca Foundation’s beautiful new retreat center. We plan a collegial and collaborative relationship with the Ayahuasca Foundation, sharing in clinical studies on plant medicines and serving as a landing for guests and faculty in transit. (https://www.ayahuascafoundation.org/)
The surrounding established UNAP campus complex, with its three principal hubs and five academic disciplines, was developed in the early 2000s as home for the scientific schools (faculties) of Biology, Forest Science, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Pharmacy, and Agronomy, located within an extensive area of secondary forest, which includes the Jardin Botanico Arboretum El Huayo, still under development, and a proposed Agroforestry research center, both of which we will participate in.
Around 500 undergraduate and some graduate students arrive each day from the central UNAP campus and the nearby city of Iquitos. The modern but modest rural UNAP science campus complex, constructed in the early 2000s, is in three nearby clusters, with air-conditioned classrooms, basic lab facilities, and faculty offices. We can, in many ways, provide a supportive hand in UNAP campus and curriculum development, building strong strategic alliances and contributing to the advancement of science in the mid-Amazon Basin. UNAP has invited us to co-develop laboratory facilities and programs with them on a long-term lease basis.
Access to the best and brightest science students will come naturally through our proximity and outreach efforts. The Schultes Center will become a “campus within a campus,” where students can obtain advanced skills and develop their career options. It is foreseen that foreign and Peruvian undergraduate and graduate students, research faculty, and invited guests will be able to share learning in classrooms, laboratories, offices, and dormitories within the expanded complex. We have identified several areas of initial interdisciplinary research. We will seek strategic alliances with national and international institutions and non-governmental organizations to add value to existing educational and research work at UNAP.
A portfolio of potentially quite profitable plant medicine products is on the boards, and our own secure lab will enable us to move forward, always keeping in mind the indigenous intellectual property values (as protected under CITES and the Nagoya Protocol) of the plants and people we work with, and with a coherent plan for assigning these values in the most mutually beneficial ways in the form of a scholarship fund.
Federal funds have been allocated, and construction of a new 11-kilometer paved road from the central Nauta highway within the following year is underway. This immediately increases the property value and ease of access to our proposed R&D center. The construction of this new road further offers the possibility of contracting for basic concrete infrastructure on the property while crews are in the area. Thus an immediate infrastructure budget should accompany the land purchase for initial expansion (in particular, a cGMP/ ISO 9001:2015 production lab facility).
A unified architectural style will tie the various structures together into an attractive landscaped campus, and the construction of multi-unit condos will offer private equity value to initial investors and colleagues. To enter the UNAP campus, one passes through campus security stations. This provides a built-in security factor. This planned future-facing community, a comfortable distance from the hubbub of the city of Iquitos, will offer a haven for faculty, friends, and families while working in the mid-Amazon region. The modest but very comfortable and ecologically designed condo units will use the best of contemporary green construction suited to the region.
Our Business Plan 2019-2020
The acquisition of this property is currently (September 2019) under negotiation, and we are looking for investment partners. Some initial project development can be financed through the sale of condominium shares in a planned on-site development, including architect-designed apartments to be part of a safe and secure campus-within-a-campus. This will enable shareholder equity and privacy within a community setting, options for passive income, and an opportunity to participate in the long-term sustainable development of an active academic ecosystem. This project is looking for the right partners and participants aligned with our vision.
The initial investors will hold title to the existing facility as equity value as part of a partnership, with the explicit understanding that the Richard Evans Schultes Center for Amazonian Ethnobotanic Research (RESCAER) or its assigns will, in turn, purchase the equity from this initial investor in order to place the property in a foundation or legal trust. This provides an exit strategy option, with terms and conditions to be determined.
Within this legal structure, condominium units will be pre-sold. First-in condominium shares will be determined, and financing will be arranged by real estate professionals, overseen by a board of directors. Condominium shareholders will retain ownership as voting members of a cohousing community trust. A construction cost analysis is underway to determine unit pricing. Early investors will get the best prices for sharing in the risk of an ambitious development project, for which the real estate equity is the fallback position. An established buy-back fund will ensure equity value and convertibility, with the community trust retaining the right to first refuse to repurchase any condominium shares. Alternatively, a substantial investor/co-developer could provide funding for the research laboratories as part of a joint venture with our for-profit company Pharmazonía.
Our Five Year Agenda ~
Biology and Botany:
Endophytic fungi, culture, and fractional extraction.
Entomopathogenic fungi in the Cordyceps/Beauveria complex.
Continuing work with the UNAP botany department and its Herbarium Amazonense.
Methods of activity delineation, constituent extraction.
Provision of various plant extract materials for pre-clinical and clinical testing.
Genipin extraction for advanced drug delivery systems is provided as research material.
Theobroma species polyphenol extraction.
Product development for Theobroma probiotic cultured foods.
Collection of Theobroma and other select species for Kew Gardens collections.
Terra preta de novo, stable carbon utilization in agriculture.
Tropical agriculture strategies, new cultivar selection, and breeding.