Ciro Oiticica (Fiocruz News Agency)
Fiocruz attended the 150 years of Oswaldo Cruz and the 200 years of Louis Pasteur symposium, organized by the National Academy of Medicine (ANM, in the French acronym). Fiocruz president, Nísia Trindade Lima; the vice-president of Research, Innovation and Production in Health (VPPIS/Fiocruz), Marco Krieger, and Cláudio Tadeu Daniel-Ribeiro, scholar and researcher of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC/Fiocruz), represented the Foundation at the event that gathered the two institutions and the French National Academy of Medicine, aiming to strengthen their historical closeness through their two scientific exponents, and to exchange relevant pieces of knowledge to reflect on current events.
Fiocruz participates in the symposium '150 years of Oswaldo Cruz and 200 years of Louis Pasteur'
“It is a great honor for Fiocruz to be here, in this joint celebration”, president Lima said, who underscored the relevance of associating the 200 anniversary of the birth of Pasteur and the 150th anniversary of Oswaldo Cruz. “Both their lives were dedicated to science and to public health”, she said. “At this moment when public health is in the spotlight, the legacies of these scientists are more necessary than ever, considering the importance of scientific evidence and of the institutions, such as Academies of Medicine and Fiocruz”.
Patrice Tran Ba Huy, president of France’s National Academy of Medicine, stressed the importance of the convergence of the three institutions. “It is with a mixture of community and fraternity that we meet here today at this bicentennial academy. Oswaldo Cruz gives particular resonance to the French scientific community as he went to France in 1896, where he was a disciple of Émile Roux”. Huy acknowledged Fiocruz’s contributions to treating diseases such as malaria and Chagas disease, turning the institution into an international reference, and placed an invitation to another meeting, in France. “We’ll be waiting for you in Paris”.
Francisco Sampaio, president of the Brazilian National Academy of Medicine, also praised the similarities between the two academies. “We can say that the Brazilian ANM was strongly inspired by the French academy, which was created in 1820 by Louis XVIII. The Brazilian academy was established nine years later, on 30 June 1829, by Emperor Pedro I; at the time it was named the Medicine Society of Rio de Janeiro. It had the goal to respond to government issues on anything regarding public health”, he said. He praised Fiocruz, which shared this same mission when it was founded. “Fiocruz is, today, larger than many ministries; it’s very impressive”.
Fiocruz: history and challenges of the present
After the opening, Lima presented a summary of historical aspects and of the present situation of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. She spoke about the early stages of the institution, since its creation as National Serum Therapy Institute, in 1900, intertwined with the career of Oswaldo Cruz himself. The work of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC) was highlighted, especially in the fight against rural endemics. “Since its very first years, the IOC was acknowledged for its innovative contributions to international science. The 1909 discovery of Chagas disease was a great feat of national science”, he said.
Lima addressed the importance of scientific expeditions at the time. “Remote regions, then called Brazilian “sertões”, were marked by poverty, disease, and abandonment by the government, according to researchers of the time”. The experience with expeditions and with the first years of Fiocruz was fundamental for the structuring of health services and government policies. Lima’s presentation also included milestones in Fiocruz’s history, such as the creation of the Unified Health System (SUS) and the training of the institution to produce several health products and diversify its activities.
“I think science has been challenged throughout the world, it was in Brazil, so that consensus established based on evidence may guide the definition of public policies. This moment of big challenges forces us to think about the development of science and technology as one of the elements that can fight climate change and socio-environmental challenges that go beyond climate change. Only by looking at this wider picture can we actually accomplish the mission of our institutions”, she said.
Pandemic response and the life of Oswaldo Cruz
The presentation of Marco Krieger, vice president of Research, Production and Innovation in Health (VPPIS/Fiocruz), was a display of Fiocruz’s different actions undertaken in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and of historical legacies of its history. Moments such as the production of the yellow fever vaccine and the responses to the outbreaks of AIDS and meningitis were important experiences that in the long term culminated in the institution’s response to the current pandemic.
The local production of health consumables was strategic, according to the vice president. “This is what allows for a quick response to public health emergencies all over the world”. In the case of Fiocruz, local production capacity was favored by a partnership with AstraZeneca, with technology developed at the University of Oxford. “For us at Fiocruz, this fight against the pandemic brings important repercussions. In addition to the construction of the now permanent Hospital Center, we have incorporated the adenovirus platform and we’re also developing a messenger RNA vaccine, now that our institution was selected to be a WHO regional hub”. The technologies mentioned are similar to those used in advanced therapies, such as the ones used to treat cancer and rare diseases, explains Krieger.
Details of the personal and scientific trajectory of Oswaldo Cruz were presented by IOC/Fiocruz researcher, Cláudio Tadeu Daniel-Ribeiro. He is also a member of the two national academies of medicine.
In addition to representatives of Fiocruz, Brazilian and French scholars presented lectures on their institutions and their exponents and addressed subjects of great relevance for the current times.
For the ANM, Francisco Sampaio traced the history of the Academy he presides and its interconnection with the trajectories of Oswaldo Cruz and Louis Pasteur. A scholar of the French ANM, Patrice Debré also used an evolving image to present the scientific trajectory of Louis Pasteur, from crystal to hospital, from the first chemical experiments, which unfolded the elements of the formulas, bi-dimensional, into the tridimensional shapes, and including contributions to the prevention and treatment of several diseases. Antibiotic resistance was the subject of the presentation of Vincent Jarlier, while Christine Rouzioux made a comparative analysis of the variants of HIV and of Sars-CoV-2. Yves Buisson listed the conditions necessary to contain an epidemic by means of vaccination. All three scientists are scholars of the French ANM.