Vale Institute of Technology 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 BRL 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.
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.