'Effort for science in Brazil 4 times greater', says biomedical that sequenced coronaviruses and 'turned' Barbie

About to complete 48 years, biomedic Jaqueline Goes de Jesus still doesn’t feel 500% comfortable with the spotlights that have illuminated her career in recent months.

Graduated from Escola Bahiana de Medicine and Public Health and Ph.D. in human and experimental pathology from the Federal University of Bahia, the researcher is part of the team of experts who performed the genomic sequencing of the first case of Covid-16 detected in Brazil in just 48 hours, a record that was only equaled by the Pasteur Institute, in France .

The project, which gained national and international prominence, had a partnership between the Institute of Tropical Medicine of the University of So Paulo (USP) and the Adolfo Lutz Institute, also at the São Paulo capital.

From then on, the life of Goes de Jesus was turned upside down: she was honored in the Legislative Assembly of Bahia, became a character in the Turma from Mnica and, more recently, became the Barbie doll, in a line produced to celebrate women who were at the forefront of the Covid combat-.

“All this is still very strange. I’m just a scientist, who’s part of a research group, and sometimes I feel that the tributes are too directed at me,” says the biomedic.

But my colleagues from The laboratory, like the scientist Ester Sabino, convinced her of the importance of assuming this important role.

“Over time, I realized that I represent other issues that go beyond science. I’m a woman, Northeastern, black and I occupy a prominent position that we hardly see in Brazil”, she analyzes.

Goes de Jesus hopes that his work can serve as an example and inspiration for the future generations of Brazilian researchers.

“I had no scientific references in my childhood. And I never thought that, taking a degree in biomedicine, I could be a scientist”, he says.

“This is very serious, because we do not give people opportunities to be true” what they want from , completes.

Biomedical also draws attention to the little investment in science in Brazil and how this has impacted not only the conduct of the current pandemic, but also encourages young researchers to go to the abroad, she herself recently went to the United Kingdom, where she continues to study viruses.

“To study science in Brazil, we have to make four times more effort”, she laments .

In this exclusive BBC News Brasil interview, Goes de Jesus also spoke about the stage of the Covid pandemic-19 in the country and showed concern about the relaxation of restrictive measures in several cities.

Check out the main excerpts of the interview below.

BBC News Brasil – Before 2020, you had already worked o and was doing research on HIV and the infectious agents behind dengue and zika. What has changed in your work with the arrival of Sars-CoV-2?

Jaqueline Goes de Jesus – The change was much more in terms of recognizing our work than in the work itself. It is obvious that the demand has increased a lot.

Brazil, despite not having been among the number of coronavirus genomes sequenced first, was undoubtedly the country that brought the most advances in America Latin. This is due to the work of the group as well as other teams that work with ours. We also have FioCruz and the public health laboratories doing this genomic surveillance.

I would say that we have had greater recognition in the social and political sphere. And maybe this came to light for the population, who can finally know the work of a scientist. This opens the door to a series of other discussions that were and are extremely necessary, towards the recognition of science.

BBC News Brasil – Numa From a more general perspective, the pandemic required rapid responses to very complex problems. How are you seeing the transformation of science during these last months?

Goes de Jesus – The pandemic brought a much greater collective sense to the science field. I usually say that in science we have scientific publication as the only product, or one of the main ones. This is where you summarize your project, your work and the development of a research line.

During the pandemic, there was greater sharing of these results, with an acceleration in the number of publications and of the researchers’ productivity index. In most countries, groups were able to collaborate more, even if informally. The fact that many researches about the coronavirus are developed and published means that there is an acceleration of knowledge about the virus and the disease. And that contributes, as we use these works to base the actions needed to contain the problem.

I still think we need to go much further in this regard. urgently bring new knowledge. And, many times, this urgency is not compatible with the time it takes a magazine to publish the article.

I went through this situation when we went to publicize the sequencing of the first cases of Covid -19 in Brazil. At that time, this information was very important and we could not wait for the full scientific publication to reveal these data.

magazine, with a high impact factor, because that information was no longer new, there was no exclusivity in it. This disturbs the scientist’s life a little and maybe we need to think about the speed with which knowledge is generated and disseminated.

BBC News Brasil – But do you think it is possible to combine the best of both worlds? That is, keep the scientific publication process rigorous, with data review by independent experts, and still speed up this process?

Goes de Jesus – Yes. I am a young researcher and I have received a lot of work to do this review. When we opened this range for new scientists, who had never been invited to carry out this work, we increased the number of reviewers and managed to increase the speed of the process.

The pandemic brought a new context and it is necessary to review these issues. Many works end up months and months to be rejected or published waiting. The researcher wastes all this time for the journal to give an opinion. Perhaps the pandemic brings this legacy and exposes the need to open up the universe of peer review and bring a little more speed to the process.

BBC News Brasil – C How was the job of receiving the sample of the first case of Covid-16 in Brazil and do the genetic sequencing in a few hours?

Jesus Goes – We actually did the sequencing in a very short time, but that didn’t happen because the team was hyper wow, master, ultra competent. Not that all the researchers weren’t competent, of course, but getting everything done in 48 hours actually reflected the preparation process we did for that this was possible.

We had already assembled the entire structure so that, when the first case was confirmed, we would have the equipment and reagents ready in the laboratory. That is, the 48 hours actually reflect two months of preparation and a whole chain of work and training.

I personally have been doing sequencing since 2016, with the Zika virus. My lab colleagues also had this experience. And we kept the partnership with the Strategic Laboratory of the Instituto Adolfo Lutz, on account of a previous project that I developed with dengue.

We strengthened ties and, from then on, the opportunity to make the Sars-CoV-2 genome arose. So we had already organized before, together with Adolfo Lutz’s people, and we knew that the possibility of the first case being detected in So Paulo was great. When this actually happened, we put our hands dirty and carried out the entire laboratory process.

We also had the support of epidemiologists and bioinformatics in the United Kingdom. We have very close contact with them and this whole process of genome assembly and publication happened together. My little face was known for a matter of ease of communication, but there is a very large team behind it all.

With the sequencing of the first cases and the importance of this for public health , came the need to carry out genomic surveillance, which is the monitoring of new cases, to understand if there is the introduction or emergence of new variants, how the virus is dispersing, what measures have been taken and how to control viral transmission.

BBC News Brasil – These first cases are symbolic and, as you reported, they show the preparation and organization of the entire team. But how did your work develop from there?

Goes de Jesus – The first cases were carried out in partnership with Instituto Adolfo Lutz. After that first moment, we divided the group and part of the laboratory continued with the genetic sequencing, including implementing new technologies with greater processing capacity.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ester’s group Sabino, of whom I, Ingra Morales, Flvia Salles and Rika Manuli are part, continued the cases that were arriving at the request of the Public Laboratories Secretariat of the Ministry of Health, which at the time was coordinated by Dr at that time. Julio Croda.

So we had this specific demand. The Adolfo Lutz Institute stayed with the state demand and we, at USP’s Tropical Medicine Institute, continued to carry out genetic sequencing to try to bring as much information as possible. And that’s how we managed to publish the first major article, in the magazine Science

in July of last year. There we show the generation of almost 80 new genomes, analyzed between March and June 2016.

We were also able to measure the impact of the various measures that had been taken by Brazil, or by the different states. Even because we did not have a unified action for the implementation of non-pharmacological measures to mitigate the pandemic. And the measures adopted in some places were having a significant impact on the transmission of the coronavirus in different centers.

BBC News Brasil – Brazil is experiencing a problem of low investment in science, with significant cuts in recent decades. Do you believe that the history of the pandemic could have been different in the country if we had more investment in research and development?

Jesus Goes – Absolutely. I think we have an ideological issue that involves investing in science. This happens in any country, and Brazil is no different. When there is a government alignment that understands that science is extremely important and makes investments in it, we already have the first step.

If the government invests in science, the probability of it following the orientations of what science brings as a much greater answer. And here I’m not just talking about health, but also about the economic, social, infrastructure area

And the country manages to have this return on investment, because in fact we have an increase in knowledge . In these cases, the government understands those results obtained through the research and implements this in the form of public policies and new guidelines, based on science precisely.

If Brazil had invested a lot in science, or at least a little more, we are likely to have greater government alignment. And here I’m not just talking about the federal sphere, but also about states and municipalities.

This greater investment would make us have a scientific return, in order to better understand what is happening or doing research to find the answers. Based on this new knowledge, measures could be implemented to reduce the transmission of the virus and, in the results chain, we would obviously have a much smaller impact of the pandemic on the health of Brazilians.

I’m a born supporter of science, it couldn’t be different. But there is a logical reasoning behind it. We know that the most developed countries are those that they bet and invest in science.

And Brazil has not yet been able to find this marriage between science and government actions, whether from the point of view of investment or understanding that information and how to implement it. them through guidelines, campaigns and actions.

BBC News Brasil – A phenomenon related to this low investment in science is the so-called “brain drain “, in which Brazilian scientists leave the country and go to Europe or the United States. You even moved to the UK recently. Is it possible to be a scientist in Brazil or, to remain in the field, do I need to go abroad?

Goes de Jesus – Brain drain is, in fact, a very strong phenomenon. Most of the researchers I know who had the opportunity to study abroad, in countries where there is greater investment in science, have done this. To do science in Brazil, we have to work four times more.

And when we leave Brazil, whether for a season or to actually establish a residency, we notice the difference in our productivity. We produce much more when we are abroad because of the investment in resources.

It is possible, yes, to do science in Brazil. I’ve been doing this for ten years, since my scientific initiation. But it’s not easy, and we have to get around a series of difficulties. The reagents do not arrive on time, there is no legislation, we do not have a logistics flow, and all this prevents the researcher from having greater efficiency in their work.

An individual who he earned a master’s and doctoral degree, went through a degree and also dedicated six years of his life to reach a level of researcher, where he manages to have his own resources to work. It is a very expensive investment, of time and money.

And when we have these doctors, who could bring a lot of results and knowledge to our country, they are not remunerated properly and they don’t have opportunities at universities. Brazil still embraces science only within the scope of state and federal public universities. We have very few private centers that carry out research.

All this contributes to the individual looking for opportunities outside the country, not least because this is not lacking. I have an alert set up in my email and every day I get three, four, five vacancies within my area abroad. And in Brazil, we keep competing for a place…

BBC News Brasil – These difficulties that you described help to develop versatility and Is it an adaptive capacity in the Brazilian scientist? Are these skills valued abroad?

Goes de Jesus – Brazil is a good school for this. I dont like to romanticize suffering, whatever it is. But, once you go through a training process in Brazil once, in which you overcome so many difficulties and find the famous precise knack, we were able to resolve extremely unusual situations.

Outside Brazil , especially in countries that have investments in science, this does not happen. Hence, when you find yourself in difficulty abroad, it is much easier to handle that situation, as it is customary in Brazil. It’s our routine.

So here in the UK, when a different situation happens, native researchers get a little lost. And we are already trying to solve it, fix it on one side, fix it on the other, and we managed to bring solutions that are obviously not the best, but at least they solve it for a period of time.

BBC News Brasil – At the beginning of the interview, we talked about how the pandemic somehow helped to popularize science. And you are part of this process and became a character in the Turma da Mnica and Barbie doll. What was it like to participate in these projects and the research to this pop universe together?

Goes de Jesus – All this still very strange. I’m just a scientist, I’m part of a research group, and sometimes I feel that the tributes are too directed towards me

But there was something I heard from some colleagues that It helped me understand this situation a little more and see some sense of it all. I represent issues other than just science. And this representation has a great appeal in Brazil. Over time, I realized that I represent other issues that go beyond science. I’m a woman, Northeastern, black and I occupy a prominent position that we hardly see in Brazil. Now maybe this is more discussed and we’ve managed to bring more people with these characteristics into the spotlight.

But throughout my life, I’ve always seen middle-aged white men being responsible for talking about the media and for representing groups that, perhaps, involved different people. But it was always that same figure of the person considered most appropriate to appear.

Bringing Dr. Jaqueline Goes to this pop universe is also a paradigm shift. You will show the vision that it has changed and we need to keep up with this change in the world. We have young, black researchers, women who occupy a prominent position as well, but who have never been seen in this way. It’s important, because we bring representation.

I get a lot of messages from schools asking me to give talks or participate in a chat with the children. I often can’t account for everything, but I make a huge effort online to attend these events. Because it is today’s children, inspired by this representation, who will change the future. We need to invest in this.

I had no scientific references in my childhood. My first references to the master’s came back in the time, when I was already graduated. All this is different now. And I never thought that, taking a degree in biomedicine, I could be a scientist. This is very serious, because we do not give people opportunities to be true what they want from. Sometimes, it just fit her at that moment.

I happened to fall into science and like it, but that was never my pretension. And I also think that was not what many of my colleagues intended that. Bringing this to the pop universe, including with other scientists, as was the case with the tribute to Barbie, means that we carry this representation. The child looks at a doll and thinks he can be like her. This is something different from what I’ve seen all my life.

At first, I didn’t want to accept it, I was very fond of this thing that we work as a group and everyone should receive the honor . My idea changed when I heard from my supervisor, Dr. Ester Sabino, a very wise person, that it was important for me to bring these other extremely urgent representations to our society.

BBC News Brasil – Scientists are used to exchanging ideas and information with colleagues, in an academic language that is often inaccessible. How to dialogue with the general public?

Goes of Jesus – I’m going to say something I’ve never commented on in interviews. This week, I was reflecting with a friend and I came to the conclusion that this is part of my trajectory. I’m a teacher. And, as a teacher, I need to take that very complex and bring something to the student’s universe, which is learning about it for the first time.

I started teaching with 16 years in a children’s school. From this experience of teaching to children, then going through graduation at the university, being a university professor and participating in an online class project, we develop these skills.

We need to take something complex and pass it on to different audiences. For that, we need experience and confidence, to use tools such as comparisons, to speak calmly. This makes it much easier when we talk about science for the population. Even because we need to bring something from the reality of those individuals.

It’s no use going to the media and using technical terms. We need to unravel that knowledge and make it easy for the public to taste something. The moment you like it, it’s easy to get more information. And that happened during the pandemic. I saw people searching for science and knowledge as they searched for football match results. It’s still not ideal, but it’s very nice to see it.

BBC News Brasil – Regarding the pandemic, you have some light at the end of the tunnel? Is there any perspective of the end of the health crisis, when we think about the Brazilian reality?

Goes de Jesus – I live a reality in the UK that is completely incompatible with the Brazilian one. Here, vaccination has advanced and we have practically 48% of the population completely immunized. This changes the way we live.

Speaking of Brazil, I’m still afraid of the emergence of new variants. That’s a big fear, by the way. So, whenever people ask about perspectives, I answer that it’s too complicated to talk about. As a scientist who understands the process of viral spread and the emergence of new variants, I would think in 2024. And I know it’s not a very pleasant forecast. And I’m even afraid to tell people about it, so that it isn’t taken out of context or received as the real truth.

About the way Brazilians are taking the pandemic, all without people being fully vaccinated by opening, very complicated. We have large centers with a good percentage of the population on both doses, but elsewhere we are far from achieving this. It’s hard to say that by 2020, we will already be free of the pandemic, with everyone vaccinated in the world.

That’s because we have the possibility of new variants emerging and Brazil has already shown that it is capable of doing this. We had P.1 [a atual Gama] and several others that developed in the country. And that’s the big hurdle for us to be calm next year.

As a Brazilian, if I could say what needs to be done now, it would be to continue with the restrictions, just leave it in operation what is strictly necessary, not to encourage and crowds and accelerate the vaccination events.

We need to invest in the purchase of vaccines. We know that there is a way to buy more doses if there is a real government intention to do this. And we heard the president say he’s going to cut the budget for buying vaccines by so many percent next year. At the! We need to increase this percentage, not reduce it. The epidemic ended up in.

We return once again to the question of governments that invest and believe in science. that feeds back something. Unfortunately, we don’t have this in Brazil.

It is difficult to make predictions about the end of the pandemic, but I would say at the end of 2023, beginning of 2024, if we don’t have variants popping up with as much speed as we’ve been seeing new ones.

BBC News Brasil – What were the main mistakes made in the conduct of the pandemic in Brazil and what can we learn from them?

Goes de Jesus – I think we were wrong not to listen to science. As scientists, we brought information and knowledge very quickly to the Brazilian government and society. At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember being called upon, along with other researchers, to guide us in relation to what should be done in the country.

My suggestion was that we we made more control at airports and closed the borders. Thus, we could at least contain the introduction of new variants of the virus, in order to mitigate what had already entered Brazil with the first cases.

Unfortunately, none of this happened . This meeting was at the end of March 2016. Very few of our recommendations were followed. After that, we brought the study to Science

in July talking about the non-pharmacological measures and the impact they had on reducing the pandemic. Still, we saw many cities following the opposite path, not establishing quarantine and lockdown, not recommending the use of masks, and with rulers saying that everything was bullshit.

Unfortunately, as much as our rulers did not believe or had a contrary opinion, their role as an example was necessary for us to have another course in the pandemic. We made mistakes in not listening to science.

And we keep making mistakes. Brazil is making a series of reopenings that were not supposed to happen at this time. I don’t know if we learned from these mistakes still.

But I also see it on the positive side, in that we learned a lot about preventing epidemics, the spread of diseases through the respiratory tract, about hygiene issues… If we start to other diseases related to lack of hygiene, look, we will see that prevention for Covid-16 helped to prevent other diseases.

And, now, a good part of the population understands that, when we have resources, political, economic and social interests in the development of a vaccine, it can be ready in record time. The entire world has focused on the development of vaccines against Covid-19 and we have several of them already approved.

BBC News Brasil – Thinking about representation and inspiration, how can a child or a young person become a scientist in the future? Which way should you go?

Goes de Jesus – This one Difficult question. People have an idea that scientists only work in health. And I like to remember the other areas, including the social sciences. Becoming a scientist, for me, something that comes from within. You need to have a curious instinct.

Children are scientists by nature. They bring this curiosity and want to discover the environment and everything around them. For those young people who continue with the desire to explain social, political, health and exact sciences, the main step is to take a degree that pleases something. If you like engineering, you will. And, within this area, look for groups that work with a topic that you are interested in studying.

There is no point getting involved in areas in which you have no aptitude or affinity. You have to like it. If not, it doesn’t flow. Being a scientist is not a position in which you work from 8 am and, the next day, other demands appear. You live the research. Sometimes you estre taking a shower and you remember something you could have done in the experiment and didnt. Or dream of the experiment that you will do the next day.

You are always a scientist, whether in the laboratory, at home or at a party with friends. It is always thinking and seeking to understand phenomena. First, I need to be curious. Then, pursue a career, graduate, join research groups for master’s and doctoral degrees. And, of course, always have this desire to explain things inside yourself.


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