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Vale Invests in Genetic Research to Help the Development of Vaccines and Drugs Against New Coronavirus

Vale Institute of Technology (ITV) and Fiocruz will carry out the most extensive genome sequencing study of the new coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) so far developed in Brazil. Both institutions will collect at least 1,000 samples of the virus that causes COVID-19, which has become the greatest challenge for humanity. The goal is to produce knowledge around vaccine and medicine that will reduce the impact of the disease; foster epidemiological studies; correlate genetic variations of the virus and the clinical history of the disease; and develop more accurate diagnostic tests. Vale will invest R$ 2.4 million in the research, to be developed in two years, starting in June.


Samples will be provided by collection centers from all Brazilian states. To get an idea of the size of the work, by May only 290 samples of Sars-CoV-2 had been sequenced in Brazil, with only 157 considered high quality. There are other initiatives underway, but the sequences have not yet been disclosed. It still a small sample compared to the need to understand the genetic variability (mutation) manifested by the virus in the country, which gives it a unique identity. The works combined will add significant scientific knowledge for the country. 35,000 high-quality SARS-CoV-2 genomes have already been sequenced worldwide, each representing the characteristics of the virus circulating in the regions where they were collected.

"We need to understand the 'Brazilian DNA' of Sars-CoV-2, find out how it spread across the country, the transmission routes and how mutations affect the target molecules for diagnostic tests, and drugs and vaccines to make these disease control tools more efficient", explained Guilherme Oliveira, scientific director at Vale Institute of Technology. According to Guilherme, a large number of sequenced genomes will enable them to refine the studies on the behavior of the virus based on its genetic variability. Mapping of genome sequences will generate information that will serve as a basis for studying new coronaviruses that may emerge in the future.

Another major goal of the COVID-19 Genome Project is to expand the research network to study potential viruses that cause endemics and pandemics in the Amazon, such as arboviruses. “In the future, the goal is to determine the genetic sequence of these arboviruses and study their behavior in the cell based on their genetic variability, and from there develop drugs and vaccines, just like we are doing with Sars-CoV-2” Oliveira added.

“The idea for this project emerged during discussions between Instituto Leônidas e Maria Deane (ILMD), Fiocruz Amazonas, and ITV to consolidate a partnership for surveillance of viral pathogens in the northern region of the country. Later, the project was extended nationwide with the inclusion of other Fiocruz units,” said Felipe Naveca, deputy director of Research and Innovation at ILMD.

The new coronavirus genetic research involves direct participation of 50 researchers and research fellows linked to research and bioinformatics centers in Belém, Manaus, Natal, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro directly involved in the genetic research on the new coronavirus, supported by a network of collaborators across Brazil and abroad. ITV also cooperates with the Cabana Project, which brings together genomics experts in Latin America and Europe, and with the European Bioinformatics Institute, in Cambridge, UK, which maintains an open database with information about the study available to researchers worldwide.


The Covid-19 Genome Project is one of the most important initiatives ever carried out by Vale Institute of Technology, which celebrates its 10th year anniversary in 2020. ITV is home to one the most advanced genome sequencing laboratories in Latin America. In four years, its researchers mapped the genetic sequencies of more than 8,000 specimens of fauna and flora in the Carajás region, including the genome sequencing of the Jaborandi (Pilocarpus microphyllus), whose active ingredient is a substance used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, such as medication for glaucoma.

ITV has extensive experience in research and studies on Amazonian biodiversity, species genomics, recovery of mined areas, cave fauna and flora, and climate change, among others. “Vale Institute of Technology is a strategic asset for Vale, it shows the company’s commitment to the development of Science and conservation of biodiversity. The Covid-19 Genome Project is yet another proof of this commitment,” stated Luiz Eduardo Osorio, executive director of Institutional Relations, Communication and Sustainability at Vale. “ITV and its initiatives are examples of the more transparent and responsible pact that Vale is establishing with society,” he concluded.

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