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Growing Research

The Federal government creates regional networks to map bacteria and fungi

The Federal government is going to invest R$ 26 million in the installation of Regional Networks for Brazilian Genome Projects. Announced on the 25th of April, the program brings together seven projects for the sequencing of the genetic codes of disease-causing micro-organisms such as Chagas’s disease, and of bacteria and fungi responsible for pests such as the “witch’s broom” that affects the production of cacao in the State of Bahia.

The projects will be developed by 240 researchers from the North East, Central West, South and South East regions, integrating molecular biology laboratories of universities and research institutions. Half of the resources for the program will be financed by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the remaining investment will be split by the state governments, universities and the private sector. “The program is within the planned action of the Ministry of Science and Technology of expanding knowledge, and in the area of biotechnology, genomics was chosen”, says Ana Lúcia Assad, the General Coordinator of Biotechnology of the Secretary of Policies and Programs of the MST. The agreements signed between the Ministry and the seven research groups will have the duration of four years.

The program has objectives similar to those of the Functional Genome Project, coordinated by FAPESP, whose goal is to identify the genes responsible for the transmission of illnesses that have a strong impact on health and agriculture in order to develop new medicines, to indicate prevention mechanisms and to offer alternatives to increase agricultural productivity. With the Regional Networks, the Federal government has actually broadened the Brazilian Genome Program launched in December of last year by the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), based on the work jointly carried out by 25 molecular biology laboratories throughout the country for the sequencing of the bacterium Chromobacterium violaceum, found mainly in the region of the Negro river, in the Amazon basin.

Four groups of workers are developing projects concerning public health. The Genome Network in the State of Minas Gerais will carry out the genetic mapping of Schistosoma mansoni, the parasite responsible for the infection schistosomiasis, an illness that affects 200 million people throughout the world. The research will be coordinated by the Research Support Foundation of the State of Minas Gerais (Fapemig).

The Genetic Program of the Northeast (ProGeNe) will be responsible for the sequencing of Leishmania chagasi, one of the three species responsible for visceral leishmaniosis, which affects countries of hot and temperate climates. The project will be coordinated by the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE). The Network Project of the Central West, coordinated by the University of Brasilia (UnB), will be doing a functional and differential study of Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, the fungus that causes endemic mycosis, known as paracoccidioidomycosis, common in Latin America.

In the state of Paraná, the research will be developed through a consortium coordinated by the Institute of Molecular Biology of Paraná (IBMP), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the University of Mogi das Cruzes in the State of São Paulo. The goal is to develop the functional genome of Trypanosoma cruzi, the culprit for Chagas’s disease, through the selection of new genes and the analysis of new chemotherapeutic targets. Three working groups will develop research directed to the farming sector. The Genomic network of the State of Bahia is going to sequence the genome of the fungus Crinipellis perniciosa, which causes the illness known locally as the “witch’s broom” that attacks cacao trees. The project will be coordinated by the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).

The Program for the Implantation of the Genome Network of the State of Rio de Janeiro, coordinated by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), will lead the mapping of the genome of the bacteria Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus, a nitrogen fixer. The Genome Program of the State of Paraná will make a study of the structural and functional genome of Herbaspirillum seropediae, a nitrogen fixing endophyte bacterium. The project will be coordinated by the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR).