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Reductions in science affect Brazilian vaccine studies against COVID-19 - 10/26/2021 - Equilíbrio e Saúde

Reductions in science affect Brazilian vaccine studies against COVID-19 – 10/26/2021 – Equilíbrio e Saúde

National vaccine researchers against Covid-19 are concerned that their projects will suffer from a lack of public funding due to the recent cut of R$600 million in the budget of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Information. Some studies are already looking at other means of obtaining resources, such as online fundraising campaigns and partnerships with the private sector.

Federal funding for research into coronavirus immunization began last year and scientists have highlighted it as being of paramount importance to advancing studies.

Even before the latest cut, some projects had already stated that the amount available was not enough to cover business expenses. Yet the fear becomes even greater.

says Emmanuel Maltembe, professor of biochemistry at the Federal University of Paraná.

It coordinates the design of a national vaccine entirely, so it can have lower manufacturing costs.

He explains that the difference in research is the development of a molecule covered with the protein of the Corona virus. “These particles stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against the virus protein. This is the new study,” Maltempe says.

The project also plans to test the application of an immunizing agent through the nose, which could increase the immune response. However, Maltempe claims that “there is a lack of people” to work on this front of the initiative, and therefore, this part of the effort has been postponed.

For now, the research is still in the preclinical stage – when testing is done on animals. The intention was to complete this phase by the end of this year, but due to budget delays, the current perspective is that this phase is for the first half of 2022.

However, there is a doubt. Maltempe is afraid, mainly because the new cut in MCTI’s budget “should affect the new notices that will be scheduled for next year,” which he intended to compete for.

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So far, MCTI’s Maltempi research has received an investment of nearly R$237,000 in July of last year. “It’s a small amount, which was enough to prove the idea worked,” says the professor.

Therefore, he had to look for other ways to fund the study, such as a contribution of about R$700,000 from the Paraná government. It was also created Online campaign For residents to cooperate with donations. The goal is to raise R$76 million, an amount that Maltempe estimates will be enough for the stage of human studies. At the moment, according to the procedure’s transparency portal, about 182 thousand Brazilian reals have been collected.

“This is a lower value than that of other projects, which can reach R$300 million,” he says.

Professor at the University of the South Pacific School of Medicine, Jorge Khalil is also working on developing a national vaccine against Covid-19 and expresses concerns about the future of the research. He entered last week with a request to Anvisa (the national health watchdog) to start testing on humans.

The project, an immune spray applied through the nose, is being implemented in the Incor (Heart Institute) laboratory at Hospital das Clínicas at the University of the South Pacific, and has funds from MCTI, such as a contribution, in April of last year, R$4.5 million .

To continue the work, Khalil plans to record the research in the ministry’s notification of projects that will carry out phase one and two clinical trials. In each project selected, the volume will invest up to R$30 million, according to the text of the notice. However, the world is concerned about whether the expected value will actually be released, in light of the recent reduction.

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a a sheet He asked the ministry to comment on whether this notice for human studies would be amended, but the ministry did not respond until the report was finished.

Khalil also points out that a reduction in science can affect the resources for master’s, doctoral, and postdoc scholarships. He remembers that scholarship holders are a large part of the Brazilian research workforce – and his Encore project is no exception.

To overcome the uncertainties of the moment, he sought support from the private sector. “We are talking to some private Brazilian laboratories that can implement the vaccine and that will also be involved in all this effort to do the tests,” he says.

This kind of partnership with the private sector is already happening in the study of another candidate vaccine against Covid developed in Brazil. Versamune is a project of the University of the South Pacific School of Medicine in Ribeirão Preto and Farmacore, a biotech startup, also based in São Paulo.

In all, the study has already invested R$30 million from the private sector, says Helena Facioli, CEO of Pharmacor. Through MCTI, the investment amounted to about R$8 million. The research has already been qualified by the volume to have contributions to human testing in the first two stages.

Asked to comment on whether budget cuts could affect progress at Versamune, the University of the South Pacific School of Medicine in Ribeirão Preto did not comment.

Another project also selected by MCTI to fund phases of human studies is SpiN-TEC, a vaccine that originated from a partnership between UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais) and Fiocruz Minas. According to Ricardo Gazzinelli, professor at the university and coordinator of the research, the project should receive R$10 million as a result of a federal public notice.

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However, the funds have not yet been released. The scientist explains that the notice states that the vaccine has pre-approval from Anvisa for clinical testing. But now, even if the regulatory agency’s approval leaves, the scenario is worrying, he says.

“No one has received yet [o recurso para a realização das fases um e dois de testes em humanos] We do not know whether this reduction [do orçamento no MCTI] It will also affect. In other words, the cut could actually affect the development of these vaccines. We live in a time of great uncertainty and we are trying to reverse it [esse cenário]”He says.

The professor also sees uncertainty in the future of the National Vaccine Center, a partnership between UFMG and MCTI, whose groundbreaking was laid at the end of September this year. Gazzinelli explains that the site will be essential for the development of national immunization factors, a gap that existed even before the pandemic.

After the MCTI funds were cut, Minister Marcos Pontes admitted that the construction of the center is in danger of not happening.

“I know [a construção do Centro] Not happening, there will be another delay in the field of national vaccines. “There are diseases we have, and the pharmaceutical industry is not interested,” Gazzinelli says.

a a sheet The MCTI questioned whether investments in vaccines already selected for clinical studies would be maintained and whether solutions had already been sought to build the National Vaccine Center, but did not get an answer.