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Admiral visits Fiocruz to better understand Fioantar and proposes new partnerships


Fiocruz News Agency


At a moment when researchers of Fiocruz program in Antarctica are getting ready for their new expeditions by the end of the year, the Foundation was visited, on the last August 15th, by the new secretary of the Interministerial Committee for the Sea Resources (Secirm/ Brazilian Navy), rear admiral Marco Antonio Linhares. Greeted by Fiocruz president, Nísia Trindade de Lima, and by the vice-president of Production and Innovation in Health (VPPIS/Fiocruz), Marco Krieger, the admiral could better get to know about Fioantar.

Received by the president of Fiocruz, Nísia Trindade de Lima, and by the vice president of Production and Innovation in Health (VPPIS/Fiocruz), Marco Krieger, the admiral was able to learn a little more about Fioantar (photo: Fiocruz)

Involving eight laboratories from Fiocruz, Fioantar maintains, since 2019, research lines that range from virus surveillance to studies with helminths, with the project members traveling to the Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station (EACF) supported by the Navy. The samples collected in different points of the icy continent are used not only for the laboratories involved in the research, but are also made available for the other institutes of the Foundation. Scientific expeditions were halted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed last year, under a heavy health security protocol.

Fioantar is integrated into Proantar, the Brazilian Antarctic Program. Holding the position since last December, admiral Linhares arrived accompanied by different authorities linked to the program, such as commander Marcelo Gomes (Proantar); and commander Luiz Felipe, from the Antarctic Support Station (Esantar). From the Oceanographic Support Vessel Ary Rongel came commander Fabiano de Medeiros Ichayo; second in command Márcio Morais de Lima; and the head of the Operations Department, commander Bruno Cravinho Meca. From the Polar Vessel Almirante Maximiano that, as well as Ary Rongel, takes the researchers to Antarctica and the collection points in the South End, came commander Dieferson Pinheiro; second in command Felipe Garcez; and the head of the Operations Department, commander Rafael Sarzedas.

The Navy delegation was completed by the members of the Base Group (GB) of Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station, which, by the end of the year, will receive Brazilian researchers from different groups that study Antarctica: the head of GB, commander Fábio; the sub-head commander Velasques; medic commander Freitas; and the person in charge of General Services, lieutenant Delorenzi.

Surveillance in the Ocean Decade

President Nísia, who has already been to Antarctica twice, emphasized the surveillance aspect of the project, reminding of the emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and others that might arise in the future. “To us, Fioantar is a priority project in the Brazilian future”. She highlighted the cooperative way in which Brazil participates in Antarctica projects, with an emphasis on science.

The admiral remembered that the Brazilian Antarctic Program, which is turning 40 years old, started being thought about yet in the Empire. “The maritime areas are true laboratories. Those who have scientific knowledge take the lead” he said, inviting Fiocruz to be part of a new project involving the oceanic islands. “Brazil is very large. We have to share efforts and work in synergy” he pointed out, emphasizing that “this is the Ocean Decade”.

Nísia gave the admiral the book 'Science on the way to the countryside' (photo: Fiocruz)

Krieger reminded the ancient Oswaldo Cruz expeditions and included Antarctica among the “new frontiers that Fiocruz faces”. He emphasized the integrated nature of Fioantar project, which makes it different from others in the continent, and further observed that the studies may also have a prospection nature, which might result in biological products, such as raw materials and medicines.

Collection of the future

Project coordinator Wim Degrave, from the Laboratory for Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, observed that the collection of samples generates data that will be used in many master’s thesis. He reinforced the surveillance nature of Fioantar. “It is much like a puzzle: detecting which organisms are present and which risks they could offer”, he said.

Nísia gave the admiral the book “A ciência a caminho da roça: imagens das expedições científicas do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz ao interior do Brasil entre 1911 e 1913 (“Science on the way to the farm: images of the scientific expeditions of Oswaldo Cruz Institute to the countryside of Brazil between 1911 and 1913”, in literal translation, unavailable in English)” and received as a gift from the admiral a commemorative badge of the 40 years of Proantar, during the meeting at the Official Residence.

Navy delegation met with other Fioantar researchers at CDHS (photo: Fiocruz)

At the auditorium of the Center for Health History Documentation (CDHS) of Oswaldo Cruz's House (COC/Fiocruz), the Navy delegation met the other researchers of Fioantar, a program in which the Center for International Relations in Health (CRIS/Fiocruz), the Social Communication Coordination (CCS/Fiocruz), and VPPIS/Fiocruz also participate.

Márcia Chame, from the Paleoparasitology Laboratory of Sergio Arouca National School of Public Health (Ensp/Fiocruz), reminded that research in Antarctica helps to understand the spread of infectious agents and that the collected samples will make up for “a collection of the future”. The researchers then reported their experiences. After the CDHS, the delegation went to visit the COVID-19 Diagnostic Support Unit (Unadig) that, although built for the pandemic, currently processes testing for monkeypox and other diseases as well.

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