Ana Paula Blower and Ciro Oititcica (Fiocruz News Agency)*
Last Thursday (12 May) was the ceremony of donation of equipment to Fiocruz by the Japanese government, destined to the Immunobiological Technology Institute (Bio-Manguinhos) and the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC). The donation is part of a cooperation project between Brazil and Japan to improve the institution’s capacity against COVID-19. On this occasion, delegations from the Japanese consulate, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) visited the Foundation and reinforced their intention to maintain their partnerships. It was highlighted that a new technical cooperation is about to begin, focused on the COVID-19 genome network, before the end of the year.
Entourages from the Japanese consulate, Jica and ABC visited the Foundation and reinforced their intention to maintain partnerships (Photo: Peter Ilicciev)
“I would like to emphasize the importance of this cooperation for us, from a historical perspective but with an eye on the future”, said Fiocruz president, Nísia Trindade Lima, at the ceremony of handing out the letter that made the donation official. “We are certain that this very welcome donation, which will contribute to the progress of our research, of diagnostic methods, in the field of vaccines, as is our history of cooperation, will certainly further strengthen our ties. We will always be ready to discuss an agenda for a future of strong cooperation between Japanese and Brazilian institutions”.
Lima thanked the presence of Teiji Hayashi, the Japanese ambassador in Brazil, and stated it was an honor to have “this historical partnership renewed at this moment of so many challenges for Fiocruz, for Brazil, and for the world”. Hayashi officialized the delivery of the medical equipment to Fiocruz to collaborate in the fight against COVID-19, in a process that had Jica as the middleman. According to Hayashi, the donation “gives continuity to the relations of friendly cooperation between the two countries, so as to contribute to strengthening medical care in Brazil”.
Chief Representative of Jica in Brazil, Masayuki Eguchi explained the process that originated the donation, emphasizing that it was a global action by the agency as a response to the pandemic, with the goal of strengthening the public health system of developing countries. “We are very glad to know that we could contribute to the goal of this work, to improve the technical capacity regarding diagnosis, vaccines, and the fight against COVID-19. Jica will continue to support Fiocruz”.
The ABC representative, Mariana Madeira, saluted what she called a “proficuous and traditional partnership” between the two countries. “I would like to shed light on the central role played by Fiocruz, which has provided responses in the fight against this pandemic. If we had no institutions such as Fiocruz, it would be very difficult to suitably respond to these challenges. We hope this donation can make researchers’ work even more dynamic”.
The General Consul of Japan in Rio de Janeiro, Ken Hashiba, and the Vice-Consul Hiroki Muya also attended the ceremony.
“I emphasize the importance that this cooperation has for us, looking at it from a historical perspective and looking to the future”, highlighted the president of Fiocruz, Nísia Trindade Lima (Photo: Peter Ilicciev)
Partnership between Fiocruz and Japan
The ceremony mentioned the long relationship of cooperation between Fiocruz and Japan, which began in the 1980s. At that moment, with the support of Jica, a protocol was signed to determine the discussions of technical cooperation for the Production of Biologicals project. This partnership has made it possible to transfer technology to produce measles vaccines and polio vaccines. These agreements have helped eliminate polio and control measles in Brazil. Later on, a project was developed to train professionals, resulting in an exchange of experiences.
“Maintaining cooperation relations with a globally acknowledged institution such as Fiocruz is very meaningful to us. “It is in our interest to give continuity to this cooperation”, stated the Japanese consul. “I hope these measures can contribute to strengthening the Unified Health System and to increase the production and the level of friendly Japan-Brazil relations”.
Akira Homma, a senior scientific assistant at Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz, has been part of this partnership since their early days, in 1980. He emphasized the importance of the community of Japanese Brazilians in the country: “I myself am the result of this relationship and I am proud to have collaborated to strengthen these relations with the establishment of this partnership to incorporate measles and polio vaccines technologies”.
Homma gave the consul the book 'Between cherry trees and coffee plantations: a history of medical-scientific relations between Brazil and Japan' (Photo: Peter Ilicciev)
The Japanese delegation visited the laboratories where the donated equipment was installed. They went to the Bio-Manguinhos Vaccine Plant, to the external area of the CTV, and to the IOC’s Inflammation Laboratory.
Antonio Barbosa, manager of Technological Coordination (Cotec) of Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz, thanked for the equipment donated to the laboratories of Immunological Technology and to the Experimental Freeze-Drying Hub, at the Rockefeller Pavillion; and of Diagnostic Technology, at the Rocha Lima Pavillion. “These pieces of equipment will be very helpful in the activities of our Technological Development teams”. He highlighted that the agreements established in the 1980s “go beyond leaving a legacy to Brazilian public health, but they have also contributed to our culture of permanent search for the laboratory and industrial infrastructure necessary for the national production of immunobiological products, and, as a consequence, for the consolidation of the Economic-Industrial Health Complex”.
At the IOC/Fiocruz, the donated equipment has already been assigned. It is a computerized tomographer that is now under the responsibility of the Inflammation Laboratory. The platform, with Quantum GX2 systems, is being used for the first time in Latin America, and will be helping with the physiological analysis of small animals by the different units of Fiocruz and partner institutions. “This machine will really make a difference for our Institute and for Fiocruz. It will be available as a multi-user platform, a very important feature in nowadays science, because cooperation is a driving force”, declared IOC/Fiocruz director, Tania Araújo-Jorge.
She once again mentioned the collaborative character of IOC/Fiocruz and the Institute’s willingness to sign cooperation agreements. “We are interested in consolidating partnerships with the different Japanese institutions that awe our researchers with their potential. We are available for visitations and interactions in the fields within our scope, such as infectious diseases, chronic degenerative diseases, environment and health, health promotion and education, and basic cellular and molecular biology, all of which gives us a degree of excellence, together with parasite biology”, she emphasized.
Meeting provides updates on vaccines
In the afternoon, part of the Japanese delegation, involving the embassy and Jica, met at the Fiocruz Global Health Center (CRIS/Fiocruz) with representatives of the Foundation. Among other subjects, the meeting addressed future perspectives for COVID-19 transmission, the production and development of vaccines at Fiocruz, and there was also a presentation of the highlights of the Institution’s work and its cooperation actions throughout the world.
Japanese delegation met at CRIS/ Fiocruz with representatives of the Foundation (Photo: Peter Ilicciev)
The Japanese delegation was also informed of the main projects that can have a positive impact on global public health and on overcoming the pandemic, such as the request of pre-qualification for the COVID-19 vaccine (recombinant) and the development of an RNA self-amplifying platform, which allowed Fiocruz to be selected by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) as a regional hub for Technological Development, Production and Transfer of Technology of RNA vaccines against COVID-19.
Pedro Burger, the assistant coordinator of CRIS/Fiocruz, highlighted the social aspects of the pandemic: “We are aware that health is not determined solely by biological aspects. We work with and study social and environmental determinants for health; this is very important for Fiocruz. And we are working to make sure this vision is implemented all over the world as well”.
* With information provided by the Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz and IOC/Fiocruz Press Offices.