The University of Oxford in Brazil will have two offices in the center of Rio de Janeiro, according to the Brazilian researcher who will lead the initiative, Sue Ann Clemens. This will be the first unit of the British institution in Latin America.
The project was announced in October and made official in a ceremony on Monday (6), with the participation of the Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, at the Ministry’s Cultural Center in the city of Rio de Janeiro. According to Clemens, this is where one of the offices should be, destined for projects in partnership with the folder.
The other new research center will be based at the Carlos Chagas Institute, a reference in medical postgraduate studies. The university’s educational branch will work there, with courses that should start in the first semester of 2022.
One will be about infectious diseases and the other about vaccinology, with Brazilian and foreign professors. “The idea is also to offer mixed internships between Oxford, the University of Siena [na Itália] and Brazilian institutions,” she told sheet after the event.
Independent research will also be carried out at the unit, with funding from non-governmental institutions. One was recently started, paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, testing booster doses of Clover and AstraZeneca vaccines.
“We are testing three different concentrations. If we identify that the smallest of them has good protection, it will be very important. It will help the world a lot in terms of supply, because production will increase a lot,” explained the infectious disease specialist.
Clemens was responsible for conducting the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trials in Brazil and chairs the scientific committee of the Bill Gates foundation. She also participates in evaluation committees for other immunization agents and is the coordinator of the first master’s degree in vaccinology in the world, at the University of Siena.
“We have two major goals. In education, we are going to train people and make adaptations to the needs of Brazilian professionals, in partnership with local institutions. In the research, we demonstrate that we know how to do it, but we want to expand, from A to Z, from identifying the antigen to the international record”, she spoke at the event.
The American scientist Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who came to Brazil to work out the details of the partnership, also participated in this Monday’s ceremony. He thanked the Brazilian government for its support, but stressed that science must be independent.
“Oxford is very interested in establishing these partnerships, but science needs to be independent, without political interference […], and I believe the minister is in full agreement with that,” he said during the event, which did not have space for questions from the press.
He added that research at Oxford in Brazil should also focus on issues other than vaccines, such as cardiology, artificial intelligence and primary care. Cooperation should be done, for example, with the national institutes of Cancer (Inca), the Heart (INC) and Traumatology and Orthopedics (Into).
Minister Marcelo Queiroga, who had already signed a term of commitment on October 27 at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, for the opening of the research center by the end of next year, stated that the two countries are friends.
“The partnership between the University of Oxford and Fiocruz provided the best cost-effective vaccine among the immunization agents used in the PNI [Programa Nacional de Imunização]. This is the result of research, collaboration and the effort of all of us to have in a public institution, the production of vaccines with Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient [IFA] national,” he said.
Along with former minister Eduardo Pazuello, he again stated that the omicron variant “is a variant of concern, but not of despair.” Mayor Eduardo Paes (PSD), who has repeatedly criticized the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government for delays in sending vaccines, this time thanked the ministry.
“Sometimes we have divergent opinions in political commands, in short, those things that happen in the heat of public life, but I want to reiterate my thanks to the Ministry of Health and the federal government, which has been supplying Brazil with doses of vaccine,” he declared.