Oswaldo Cruz Foundation was created on May 25, 1900. It was first called Serum Therapeutic Institute. Initially the objective was produce serums and vaccines against the plague. After the designation of Oswaldo Cruz as director in 1902, the institution expanded its activities and became involved in research and experimental medicine
The foundation became the base for Oswaldo Cruz’s famous sanitation campaigns in Rio de Janeiro. That time the city suffered with epidemics of bubonic plague, yellow fever and smallpox. After bypass the critical situation in Rio, the foundation made scientific agreement that played a decisive role in the occupation of the interior of the country. In response to requests from the government, the institute laid the foundations to the establishment of the National Department of Public Health in 1920.
After the revolution of 1930, the Institute was transferred to the newly created Ministry of Education and Public Health. Although it received more federal resources, the institute lost autonomy and became more vulnerable to external political interference. The 1960s and 1970s were marked by political turmoil during the years of the military dictatorial regime (1964 - 1985). In 1970 the institution suffered a violent blow with the so-called “Massacre of Manguinhos”, when renowned researchers from the Institute lost their political rights and were forced into retirement.
Fiocruz underwent profound changes in the 1980’s. In 1985, the sanitarian Sergio Arouca, took over the Foundation’s presidency. He recreated programs and structures. During Arouca’s administration, the milestone of the modern history of Fiocruz took place: the first Internal Congress that was the first democratic experience for many workers. In the following years, Fiocruz advanced not only in terms of its management, but also in the scientific area. In October 1987, a group of scientists of the institution succeeded in isolating HIV for the first time in Latin America.
The centennial Foundation took its first steps into the 21st century in a solid way and had its Statute published. The period was also marked by important scientific progresses: institution’s researchers have decoded the genome of BCG, a bacterium used in Brazil in the vaccination against tuberculosis. The work initiated by Oswaldo Cruz in Rio continued to expand, by opening new units at Mato Grosso do Sul and Mozambique, in Africa.
More than one century after the creation of the Serum Therapeutic Institute, the region is no longer surrounded by the mangroves. The serenity of seagulls and canoes gave way to the heavy traffic of the Avenida Brasil street that cuts through the landfill where used to stay the mangrove. However, Fiocruz remains high up on the hill, solid and imposing, doing justice to its history.