Fiocruz News Agency
While he prepares himself to take the executive director office of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) in the next month, Luis Pizarro was in Fiocruz last Monday (August 8th) to debate the content of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a strategic alliance between the organization and the Foundation. Throughout the day, partnerships in matters such as Open Science and data sharing, development of vaccines and diagnosis, Global Health; and diseases such as dengue fever were discussed in different units of Fiocruz. In all of the meetings, members from side to side highlighted the importance of focusing on neglected populations and access to medicines.
Event discussed the content of the Memorandum of Understanding for a strategic alliance between DNDi and the Foundation (photo: Fiocruz)
The DNDi is a non-profit organization of research and development that works to offer new treatments to neglected patients. Since its creation, in 2003, it has developed 12 treatments against six neglected diseases that can lead to death. As one of the founding members, Fiocruz is represented by Jorge Bermudez in the organization's council. A researcher of the Sergio Arouca National School of Public Health (ENSP), Bermudez took part in the meeting.
The work meetings this Monday were a result of the visit that occurred in March, when a MoU was signed for research and treatment of dengue fever. The intention of forming a strategic partnership was announced on that occasion. It was the first formal meeting to have the presence of Pizarro, and it was marked by discussions such as the continuation of the dengue project, advancements in the hepatitis C project and collaborations in Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.
Equity in access to drugs
In the event’s opening, Fiocruz’s president, Nísia Trindade Lima, highlighted that one of the goals of the meeting was to think about the role of this strategic meeting in relation to Latin American countries, and also in Global Health.
“We are deepening the discussion about how to strengthen the field of innovation, relating it to equity in access and associating the themes of use and development of new technologies for neglected diseases to this agenda. Our approach is always thinking from the perspective of neglected populations”, stated Nísia at the auditorium of the Center for Health History Documentation (CDHS). “We may say that, in practice, this strategic alliance already exists. But it needs to take a whole new level, thinking in relation to innovation. And also discussing issues that are not in the priority agenda of the great drug industry, the same way as new ways of usage of [already existing] medicines.”
The delegation was also able to make a brief visit to the Moorish Castle (photo: Fiocruz)
Chilean and public health physician, Pizarro highlighted the achievements in 20 years of DNDi, with the production of drugs for diseases that had no indicated medicine up to that moment. “But there is a question: how to make that model be sustainable and work without international philanthropic help?”, he questioned. “We need to have a long-term structure to maintain it. This is a challenge for us all.” About the alliance with Fiocruz, Pizarro expressed the intention of it also being a sustainable model. “If we want the model to be sustainable, we have to reinforce the alliances, the associations and the partnerships to advance. And we are making something concrete with this document of strategic alliance”, he added.
On a global level, the new director of DNDi highlighted the project on dengue fever as a good example of the South-South collaboration, besides emphasizing the importance of triangular collaborations. He arrived at Fiocruz accompanied by a delegation formed by Eric Stobbaerts, International Development director; Sergio Sosa-Estani, executive director for Latin America; and Isabela Ribeiro, director of the Viral Diseases Cluster.
Sosa-Estani mentioned the possibility of developing new projects, in which creation, development and funding are shared. Marco Krieger, vice-president of Production and Innovation in Health, believes that this strategic alliance will give a new dimension to the projects and will allow it to enhance the actions of both institutions. He suggested that an issue that could be in the strategic alliance is the production of diagnostic kits for neglected diseases. The vice-president for Education, Information and Communication, Cristiani Vieira Machado, raised the possibility of creating bilingual and trilingual courses with DNDi, as Fiocruz already created, besides repositories, citing the example of Arca.
The first part had the participation of Rodrigo Correa, vice-president for Fiocruz Biological Research and Collections; Felix Rosenberg, director of the Itaboraí-Petrópolis Palace; Miryam Minayo, of the Fiocruz Global Health Center (CRIS); Valber Frutuoso, advisor of the Presidential Office for Institutional Relations; Jorge Costa, advisor of VPPIS; and Carlos Morel, director of the Center for Technological Development in Health (CDTS), who was present at the meeting in Geneva on 2003 when the creation of DNDi was signed.
The opening ceremony was followed by three working panels. In “Research and development of Dengue fever and Chagas disease”, Valdilea Veloso, director of the Evandro Chagas National Infectiology Institute (INI), took part in it accompanied by Tiago Nery, advisor for International Subjects, and researchers Andrea Silvestre and Alejandro Hasslocher Moreno. INI develops the project CUIDA Chagas, on the congenital transmission of the disease, which is supported by Unitaid and with DNDi's collaboration with scientific and technical counseling. The project is developed in Colombia, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil.
About the Strategic Alliance, Fiocruz is revising a first draft, which shall be sent to DNDi in the following weeks. Among the projects that may be under the umbrella of this alliance are the ones related to Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and Hepatitis C, as well as areas such as Open Science and Biobank.
The opening was followed by three working panels: Fiocruz is reviewing a first draft on the Strategic Alliance, which should be sent to DNDi in the coming weeks (photo: Fiocruz)
Rodrigo Correa explained that, although COVID-19 Biobank was created with the initial goal of keeping the samples of Sars-CoV-2 and its variants, it may work with other diseases in the future. Sosa-Estani showed interest in discussing the project based on biorepositories, a first step to develop biobanks. While Morel highlighted the need of using metagenomics so those diseases are not mistaken with others, Alejandro Hasslocher Moreno reminded the need to increase the execution of tests for Chagas disease, so that patients can have access to the treatment. “There are not many treatments occurring because there is no diagnosis”, he pointed out.
Isabela Ribeiro highlighted the search for treatment for dengue fever, a project in which countries where the disease is endemic take the lead in actions. DNDi has established partnerships not only in Brazil, but also in Thailand, Malaysia and India. Thiago Moreno, a researcher of the CDTS, explained the progress in the research with drugs against the disease.
The second panel, about “the development of drugs, vaccines and diagnosis”, was held in Cris, where Jorge Mendonça, director of Farmanguinhos, commented on the stage of research with new drugs, and Sotiris Missailidis, vice-director of Technological Development of Bio-Manguinhos, who spoke about Fiocruz as a WHO hub for the vaccine of mRNA against COVID-19 and the Industrial Complex of Santa Cruz. On this table, they also discussed the research involving Ravidasvir, which is being studied for the treatment of Hepatitis C.
Panel at Cris/Fiocruz discussed the development and production of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics (photo: Fiocruz)
The table about Public Health and Global Health was held on Ensp, with the participation of Marcos Menezes, director of the unity, and Marismary Horscht de Seta, vice-director of the School of Government in Health. In the meeting, the DNDi delegation got to know a little more about how the school works, which includes distance learning to students from other countries, such as Mozambique and São Tomé, and the role of the Foundation on the regional healthcare networks. The work of Fiocruz relating to Global Health through Cris was also presented. Besides the advanced biweekly seminars with specialists from all over the world, Cris also makes informs and e-books on the subject.
Ensp/Fiocruz hosted a panel on public health and global health (photo: Fiocruz)
The delegation also was able to make a quick visit to the Mourisco Castle. The meetings will serve as a base for the draft that is being produced and that will later be sent for DNDi’s consideration. The final document will be the base for the MoU for the Strategic Alliance Fiocruz/DNDi.