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Seven support research foundations are working together to create a network for investigating malaria

Research Foundations (FAPs) from seven Brazilian states are forming an unheard of partnership in order to seek responses for fighting malaria, a disease that affects 500,000 Brazilians and kills  1000 of them every year, almost all in the Amazon region. On 17 November a meeting is going to take place in Brasília with representatives from the FAPs of Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to discuss a document that proposes the creation of the Malaria Network. The expectation of Odenildo Sena, president of the National Council of FAPs (Confap), is that public bid notices will be issued in each state over the next few months. “It would be good for us to formalize the network this year in order to guarantee budget resources in 2009”, says Sena, who is also the president of the Amazonas foundation (Fapeam). The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Ministry of Health have already shown an interest in sponsoring the Malaria Network.

According to Odenildo Sena, each state is likely to invest between R$ 1 million and R$ 1.5 million in research, but the value of each public bid notice is likely to be at least R$ 3 million, since they will include a counterpart from the CNPq and possibly from the Ministry of Health. The participants in the network will jointly define the topics to be investigated. “The idea is that everybody makes an effort to solve crucial problems, like the search for a vaccine against the disease or the development of drugs from plants and not that each dedicates themselves to specific issues without talking to the others”, says Sena. As various states in the Amazon region do not have organized FAPs the network will be able to involve researchers from these places using funds from the federal government. Such is the case, for example, with Rondônia, which does not have a foundation but has a Research Institute in Tropical Pathologies (Ipepatro), a center of reference for parasitic diseases, led by renowned parasitoligist, Luiz Hildebrando Pereira da Silva.

This is the first time that so many FAPs have organized themselves to act jointly.  The Malaria Network began being conceived of a few months ago when Fapeam decided to launch a public bid notice to encourage research into malaria and presented partnership proposals to FAPESP and the Pará foundation. Since the reception was good directors from foundations in other states were contacted and willingly joined the initiative. “In the Amazon we have an open-air laboratory and the other states have their own expertise in research into the illness”, says Odenildo Sena. “Whoever is at the forefront in research in a certain area can contribute to those states with greater difficulties. The exchange of experiences is important for the development of research in the country.” The participation of the CNPq was settled at a meeting held in Brasília at the end of September with representatives from the FAPs and Marco Antônio Zago, president of the body. On October 3 another meeting secured the interest of the Ministry of Health in joining the program. “Brazil already has good investment in research into malaria and it’s important to nurture the capacity of the states to eliminate this disease”, said Suzanne Jacob Serruya, from the Department of Science, Technology and Strategic Inputs at the Ministry of Health.