FAPESP and the Sustainable Development Goals

São Paulo state and France agree to intensify scientific collaboration

São Paulo state and France agree to intensify scientific collaboration

FAPESP signed an extension of its scientific cooperation agreement with CNRS and another agreement to fund young researchers’ projects in biomedical sciences conducted at the Pasteur-USP Science Platform (photo: Olga Anokhina and Marco Antonio Zago/credit: Daniel Oliveira)

Published on 01/03/2022

By Elton Alisson  |  Agência FAPESP – On December 10, FAPESP signed an extension of its scientific cooperation agreement with France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Two days earlier, in Paris, it had signed another agreement with the Pasteur Institute and the University of São Paulo (USP) to fund projects in biomedical sciences conducted by young researchers at the Pasteur-USP Scientific Platform in São Paulo.

Thanks to these two initiatives, scientific collaboration between researchers in São Paulo state and France is set to intensify in the years ahead, noted Marco Antônio Zago, President of FAPESP, on opening the France-Brazil Research Workshop on Scientific Cooperation in São Paulo State, held on December 13 in FAPESP’s auditorium.

“To address the challenges faced by our societies, such as climate change, education for all, and forms of green energy production, science needs large-scale funding. International collaboration between research funders, research institutions and science ministries is indispensable if we are to mobilize the resources needed by research projects,” said Yves Teyssier d’Orfeuil, Consul General of France in São Paulo, attending the event.

“FAPESP also has agreements with numerous French research institutions and universities, such as those in the Lyon region. We plan to strengthen and expand this collaboration in the coming years,” Zago said.

The scientific cooperation agreement between FAPESP and CNRS began in 2004 and has resulted in many collaborative research projects in such knowledge areas as biology, energy, environment and physics.

An example is the creation of a bi-national collaborative research project in subatomic physics (focusing on particles smaller than atoms) involving researchers at the Aeronautical Technology Institute (ITA) in São José dos Campos, USP’s Physics Institute, and the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) on the Brazilian side.

“One of the aims of this project is to investigate processes that may go beyond what’s known in the theory of strong and weak interactions and of electromagnetism,” said Tobias Frederico, a professor at ITA.

Brazil is already the main South American scientific collaborator with CNRS, which has an annual budget of € 3.5 billion – € 2.65 billion in public money and € 770 million in revenue from patents resulting from partnerships with companies on scientific and technological projects.

“We set up joint laboratories with companies every fortnight,” said Jean Thèves, Deputy Director of International Relations for the Americas at CNRS, in a video recorded for the event. “These labs are created and networked around a theme to respond to ambitious and well-defined scientific challenges. The transfer of knowledge between the academic world and industry will certainly accelerate in the years ahead.”

About 65% of all scientific publications by French researchers in partnership with Brazilians involve cooperation with CNRS, according to Olga Anokhina, who heads CNRS South America and is based in Rio de Janeiro.

“CNRS is the most important interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research organization in Europe, and one of the foremost in the world in several areas,” Anokhina said.

Six of the more than 1,000 research laboratories founded by CNRS in partnership with universities are located in South America: three in Santiago (Chile), one in Uruguay, one in Buenos Aires (Argentina), and one in Rio de Janeiro, at the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA).

CNRS wants to set up another research lab in Brazil, this time in human sciences. “We’re working on this in partnership with FAPESP and IEA [the Institute for Advanced Studies] at USP,” Anokhina said.

Irene Vida Gala, an ambassador and deputy head of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry’s São Paulo office, also took part in the December 13 meeting.

Boosting collaboration

On December 8, an agreement was signed in Paris by Zago, Stewart Cole, Director General of the Pasteur Institute, and Vahan Agopyan, Rector of USP, to fund young researchers’ biomedical science projects conducted via the Pasteur-USP Scientific Platform for a four-year period.  

The Platform is a scientific partnership between the Pasteur Institute, USP and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), created in June 2015 to study emerging or re-emerging vector-borne infectious diseases that can damage the central nervous system, such as zika, dengue, yellow fever and influenza, as well as the protozoans that cause human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and other parasitic infections. Translational medicine and transversal approaches must be prioritized, more specifically dealing with immunopathological approaches.

“FAPESP already supports the Platform by funding ongoing research projects,” Zago said. “Now we’re launching this new means of attracting human resources, associating FAPESP’s Young Investigator program with additional support from the Pasteur Institute. We’re confident that this international initiative can only strengthen research on infectious diseases and immunology.”

The three calls for proposals to be issued will be open to researchers worldwide with no formal affiliation to institutions in Brazil or any other country. The first is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022, and the others for 2023 and 2024 respectively. Approved projects will each receive some BRL 2 million over four years, as well as scholarships and allowances for the principal investigator (PI) and a certain number of students.

“For each project, Pasteur will provide € 50,000 per year, FAPESP about BRL 200,000 plus a scholarship worth BRL 8,000, and USP the Platform’s infrastructure,” said Paola Minoprio, one of the Platform’s coordinators. “We’ll also be able to supplement the PI’s scholarship so as to attract the best talent and projects.” 

Research proposals submitted in the calls must be aligned with the scientific policy of the Pasteur-USP Platform, which was launched on March 16, 2020. It is expected to invest BRL 40 million, and is located in the university’s innovation and research center, Inova USP, occupying 1,700 sq. m. with 17 laboratories, four of which are Biosafety Level 3 (BS3) facilities certified for research on high-risk pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2.

Proposals will be assessed in two stages for each call. FAPESP will select the best three, and two committees – one representing USP and the other Pasteur – will independently review these three projects. A mixed committee (USP-Pasteur-FAPESP) will make the final selection of the project for that year.

To assure talent retention, at the end of the four-year period the PI for each project will be able to take part in a competitive examination for a teaching post with the Platform, to be funded by USP or Pasteur. “If no post is available at the end of the fourth year, an extra year will be granted to instate the vacancy and competitive proceedings,” Minoprio said.

The ceremony held to sign the agreement in Paris was also attended by Valmor Tricoli, Chair of USP’s National and International Academic Cooperation Agency (AUCANI) and a member of the Pasteur-USP Scientific Platform’s steering committee; François Romaneix, Executive Vice President of the Pasteur Institute for Administration and Finance; Jennifer Hurley, Pasteur’s representative on the Platform’s steering committee; and Chloé Rabiet, an expert in international law and an executive with Pasteur.


Source: https://agencia.fapesp.br/37627