Gamboa is on the east bank of the Panama Canal and north of the Chagres River. It's also next to Soberania National Park, a tropical forest. The Panama International Cooperative Biodiversity Group combs the park looking for plants, algae, and invertebrate marine life that might have healing properties for tropical diseases. This practice is referred to as bioprospecting. Besides the obvious benefits to finding treatments for such diseases as dengue fever, Chagas disease, and malaria, bioprospecting also helps conserve the environment that medicinal plants grow in.
Bioprospecting is not without controversy. Some claim that bioprospecting is biopiracy. "The word 'biopiracy' was coined by the North American advocacy group, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group) — formerly known as Rural Advancement Foundation International — to refer to the uncompensated commercial use of biological resources or associated TK from developing countries, as well as the patenting by corporations of claimed inventions based on such resources or knowledge."
Find out more about the controversy. Read Bioprospecting: legitimate research or 'biopiracy'?