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Zika and flu are themes of the 1st meeting of Brazil-China partnership


Julia Dias


Chinese researchers visited Fiocruz to present to Brazilian scientists their research, innovations and fields of studies related to infectious diseases. The 1st Academic Meeting of Brazil-China Center for Research and Prevention of Infectious Diseases (IDRPC), organized by Fiocruz and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, took place at the campus of Manguinhos (Rio de Janeiro) and marked another step in the partnership between the two countries, which began last year with the signing of two Memorandum of Understanding, one in November 2017 and another in February 2018.

foto: Peter Ilicciev


This first academic meeting had a special focus on infections responsible for recent epidemics in both countries, zika in the case of Brazil, and influenza in the case of China. Emerging and reemerging viral diseases account for 20% of worldwide mortality, and as participants recalled, viruses do not need a passport to spread.
Although they do not have zika in their territory, Chinese researchers are very advanced in their studies on the subject and even have a statue of the virus outside their laboratory in Shenzhen. Among the advances presented were studies on possible vaccines and rapid diagnostic methods, which require the partnership of Fiocruz to be tested in patients.

"Brazil and China have many common problems. China has groups that work in the same priority areas of Fiocruz such as virus infections, vaccine development and diagnostic development. And they have a mass of researchers at various institutions, such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with which we have a great interest in exchanging experiences and researchers," said the director at the Center for Technological Development in Health (CDTS/Fiocruz) Carlos Morel, who has led the efforts of the partnership. He has also shown interest in Chinese technology hubs such as the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI)."China nowadays has enviable scientific and technological capacity," he said, reaffirming that despite being new, the partnership has "everything to grow".

At the meeting, the structure and facilities of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) were also shown. Unlike other science academies, CAS has its own laboratories, being the largest scientific institution in the country with 800 members and more than 60 thousand researchers in its centers. It is responsible for 85% of the infrastructure of mega-science in China, and has nine leading centers outside the country.

"We came here to show Fiocruz scientists and students what we are doing in China and we hope we will find many other points of collaboration and we also hope that more exchanges of researchers will happen," explained Tong Zhou, associate professor at the Institute of Microbiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "What we want is to maximize the advantages for both sides. Fiocruz has many papers with zika, yellow fever and other infectious diseases. We do not have patients, but we continually research based on our science system and we are professionals in doing so. The collaboration will combine advantages and build a much brighter future for the two countries," he said.

The first research fellow of the partnership also attended the meeting. Leonardo Vasquez is an affiliated researcher at Fiocruz and a Visiting Researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "The experience is great to know how a large and relevant group like theirs works. It is important to know even for gaining experience. It is a developing country like Brazil, it has its limitations, but it has great advantages. In science, they are emerging," said Leonardo, who has been in China since April researching structural aspects of chikungunya virus. He is expected to spend two years in total at the Institute of Microbiology in Beijing and he is excited about the results that this experience can bring to Brazil.


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