Cristina Azevedo (Fiocruz News Agency)
Fiocruz and the CAS-TWAS Center of Excellence for Emerging Infectious Diseases (CEEID), through the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), signed this morning 4/13 in Beijing a Memorandum of Understanding that creates the Sino-Brazilian Infectious Diseases Research and Prevention Center (IDRPC). The agreement takes place during President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's first visit to China after taking office, highlighting the rapprochement between the two countries. The center, which will have its headquarters in Beijing and at Fiocruz's Manguinhos Campus, in Rio de Janeiro, will strengthen the cooperation in science and technology related to health, with a focus on the prevention and control of pandemics and epidemics, such as COVID-19, influenza, chikungunya, zika, dengue, yellow fever, oropouche and other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. In addition, it will seek to develop global health public goods, such as rapid diagnostic tests, therapies, vaccines and medicines.
The president of Fiocruz Fiocruz, Mario Moreira, and the director of the Institute of Microbiology, Wei Qian, during the signing of the agreement
The agreement had been taking shape since before the pandemic, but was delayed due to the health emergency and political issues. With the election of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the rapprochement between Brazil and China, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) gained new impetus, showing that the two countries' relations can also deepen in the area of health. At the signing ceremony, CAS highlighted that Lula's visit and the signing of the agreement show the importance of a broad and high-level partnership for both countries.
“Chinese-Brazilian cooperation in science and health reaches another level with this agreement. Joint research into infectious diseases in Chinese and Brazilian laboratories, the permanent exchange of experiences and knowledge, the even greater qualification of epidemiological surveillance gain from the strengthening of our science and enable countries to better prepare for new health emergencies, which are increasingly common”, said Mario Moreira. “We share with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) the vision of health goods as public goods, such as vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tests. The development and production of these goods need to be decentralized and serve to strengthen health systems to reduce global vulnerability. Let’s walk together in this direction that strengthens Fiocruz’s international position.”
A working group will implement the center in both countries. Each headquarters will work with researchers from both nationalities. Works on basic and translational research, clinical research, training and investigation, international communication and exchange of researchers will be carried out. Joint research projects; training and development of human resources at different levels (such as technical, master's, doctoral and post-doctoral); exchange of information, technology and materials; organization of seminars and conferences; joint publications of scientific articles; technological development of new vaccines, therapeutic antibodies and drugs for acute and chronic infectious diseases; and collaborations in tropical medicine will be implemented.
“This agreement reinforces cooperation in public health”, commented Shi Yi, executive director of CEEID and who mediated the series of seminars between Fiocruz and the CAS last year. In Beijing, the center will operate at the Institute of Microbiology. In Brazil, it will be located in the building of the Center for Technological Development in Health (CDTS), which is being built in Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro. The construction of the building is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, with the center expected to start operating in early 2025. Until then, there will be time to select the researchers who will go and those who will come.
“The greatest importance of this memorandum is that for the first time we are going to establish two physical centers, which will be used by Brazilian and Chinese researchers. We are transforming events that used to be of short duration, such as visits by researchers, into permanent activities. The idea is to have Chinese scientists here for long periods, one month, one year, two years”, said Carlos Morel, CDTS coordinator and who participated in the preparation of the memorandum. “We are going to open exchange programs, training and recruiting people. There are many Chinese researchers wanting to come here. But it's not so easy to find Brazilians wanting to go. First, it takes some time to study the language, support to arrange an apartment. All of this we will discuss until the inauguration.” During this period, both sides will also seek public and private support.
Among the diseases that will be studied, some affect both countries, such as COVID-19. Others affect Brazil more, such as yellow fever, but which have attracted Chinese interest. With the increase in Chinese infrastructure works in Africa, some of its workers have contracted yellow fever – a disease for which Fiocruz has the know-how, as it produces the vaccine. On the other hand, China and India produce most of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) used in the world. And Brazil can learn from them.
Cooperation between Brazil and China in health is not new, but has gained strength in recent years. At Fiocruz, it began to be promoted after the visit of the delegation led by scientist George Fu Gao, then director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC/China), in June 2017. That same year, in November, Gao and Nísia Trindade Lima, who was president of Fiocruz, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of joint research and technology projects, with the presences of the Minister of Health in Brazil, Ricardo Barros, and the Chinese Vice Minister, Guoqiang Wang.
Since then, scientists and specialists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Fiocruz have maintained constant communication, conducting joint seminars, academic exchanges and co-authoring articles.
Ceremony. The Memorandum of Understanding for the creation of the Sino-Brazilian Infectious Diseases Research and Prevention Center was signed on April 13, starting at 10:30 am (Beijing time) at the Institute of Microbiology, by its director Wei Qian and by the president of the Fiocruz, Mario Moreira.
Authorities such as George Fu Gao and Yi Shi, directors of the CAS-TWAS Center of Excellence for Emerging Infectious Diseases; Bolun Ning and Zhenyu Wang of the Office of International Cooperation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Victor Tibau, head of the Science, Technology and Innovation sector at the Brazilian Embassy in Beijing also took part.