Julia Dias (AFN)
Representatives of Fiocruz and of the British Embassy met on December 15 to discuss cooperation in health between the Foundation and institutions of the United Kingdom. At the meeting, requested by the embassy’s business manager, Liv Davidson, and with the presence of the British consul in Rio de Janeiro, Simon Wood, the attendees discussed current partnerships and possible new ones.
The main cooperation of Fiocruz with British institutions at this moment is an agreement for transferring technology of the vaccine developed at the University of Oxford to the Immunobiological Technology Institute in (Bio-Manguinhos). Signed in September, the agreement establishes the full absorption of the technological platform by Fiocruz, and will supply 210.4 million doses to the National Immunization Program (PNI in the Portuguese acronym), at the cost of US$ 3.16 per dose.
“This vaccine has proven to be effective and we are confident it will be approved soon. In clinical trials, the Oxford vaccine successfully eliminated the severe form of the disease”, stated Marco Krieger, Fiocruz’s vice-president of Production and Innovation in Health, while presenting the project. “Society is realizing that scientific knowledge is the best way to deal with the pandemic”, he states.
The vice-president also highlighted the potential to use this new platform to develop vaccines against other diseases, as has been researched for a decade by the University of Oxford. “Fiocruz has plenty of accumulated knowledge regarding these other diseases, such as zika and dengue fever. We are sure this is an area in which we can expand our cooperation”, says Krieger.
The director of Bio-Manguinhos, Maurício Zuma, presented the new Complex of Bioindustrial Technology in Health, which will be built in Santa Cruz, in the western areas of Rio de Janeiro, as a possible field for partnerships. The goal of the project is to increase Fiocruz’s (and Brazil’s) vaccine production capacity, ensuring sustainability to the PNI, reducing the country’s vulnerability in this area, and generating higher safety and lower production costs.
“The current premises of Bio-Manguinhos do not allow for any kind of expansion. The Santa Cruz complex will increase the number of products made, with new technology transfer processes and higher production capacity. The plant will have 334,000 square meters of built area, which will generate 1.5 thousand jobs, for an investment of R$ 3 billion [around 590 million dollars)”, says Zuma. The new plant should generate new possibilities of vaccines for export and also of cooperation for technology transfer.
Other ongoing projects and partnerships were presented by researcher Gustavo Matta, of the Sérgio Arouca National Public Health School (Ensp/Fiocruz). The Foundation already maintains partnerships and financing with Newton Fund, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of York, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Some of this cooperation began during the zika epidemic in Brazil when the Zika Network of Social Sciences was formed.
“During that epidemic, the then vice-president of Information and Communication of Fiocruz, who is our current president, Nísia Trindade Lima, understood the need to look at the social impact of the disease. Four years later, we are facing another health emergency, and some of these things we learned and the networks we formed are being used”, says Matta.
One of the projects of this line, which has been developed in a partnership with the British embassy and the Wellcome Trust, is the Communication Strategy for Brazil and Latin America, within the Covid-19 Observatory - Newton Fund. The goal of the project is to constitute an interdisciplinary center on responses to public health emergencies in the global south and includes communication products divided into three axis-actions: indigenous health, policies for the favelas, and gender initiatives. “Our proposal is to respond to misinformation generated by the world’s current excess of information, using pieces founded on the work of the Covid-19 Observatory and in a partnership with the populations involved”, explains the researcher. The communication pieces will be available in three languages (Portuguese, English, and Spanish), on a webpage that will be launched soon.