The Institute for Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (Istc) of the National Research Council of Italy is amongst the research partners of the “Babots” project. Coordinated by the University of Namur, the project promotes an innovative, disruptive technology bases on Biological Animal roBots.
BABots are small animals, such as worms or insects, whose nervous system will be reprogrammed to execute new and useful behaviors. BABots will be designed to perform delicate tasks within miniature complex biological environments, such as in the soil, on plants or even in our body. The BABOTS project, funded by the European Innovation Council, will be run by an international consortium of experts in neurobiology, synthetic biology, robotics and ethics, together with a commercial partner from the agrotech industry.
As a first step in developing the technology, the consortium will focus on the tiny 1mm-long nematode worm C. elegans, generating several genetic changes in its nervous system to drive pre-designed collective detection and elimination of invasive pathogenic bacteria. To ensure maximal safety, we will genetically equip BABot worms with a multi-layered biocontainment system, which will tightly control their propagation, and we will establish a dedicated ethical and regulatory framework for BABot development and potential use. As a preliminary test of the technology, BABot worms will be deployed in a state-of-the-art vertical farming setting, enabling the monitoring of their integration and performance in an ecological environment, while maintaining them in strict isolation.
We envision the BABOTS technology substantially contributing to many fields, including healthy crop cultivation, environment remediation and perhaps also medicine.
The project consortium:Université de Namur (Coordinator, Belgium), The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (Italy), Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology of Behavior (Germany), Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (Germany), Aalto University (Finland), ZERO srl (Italy).
Cnr – Istc