EPIMOL loses its great creator, world-renowned leader in the field of infectious diseases and vaccinology

Publicação: 3 de November de 2022

Professor Lee W. Riley based EPIMOL on a discipline he taught at the University of California

A tribute to Dr. Riley is scheduled for the XXI EPIMOL, which should take place in conjunction with MEDTROP 2023, which will be held in Salvador

The 13th International Course on Molecular Epidemiology in Emerging Infectious and Parasitic Diseases (EPIMOL), which was held between August 13 and 26 and 2022, after two years of activities interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, was orphaned on October 20 with the invaluable loss of one of its creators, Dr. Lee Riley, a world-renowned leader in the field of infectious diseases and vacinology. EPIMOL, a course that has been and will continue to be a great legacy of Dr. Riley, will continue and a tribute is planned for the next edition, which should take place in conjunction with the 58th Congress of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (MEDTROP), to be held in Salvador (BA) in 2023. The twentieth edition of EPIMOL had the outstanding participation of Dr. Riley.

In more than 44 years of medical experience, Professor Riley has served as president of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vacinology at the University of Michigan and has focused his research on globally important infectious diseases as well as diseases that are prevalent in slums in developing countries. Dr. Riley was very important in training doctors, teachers and researchers and, with his vision that the acquisition of scientific skills and knowledge were necessary to achieve research objectives and his belief in the need to make science understandable to the public, gave his contribution to science, education and training of health professionals and scientists. In Brazil, he developed research projects in collaboration with national researchers to study infectious and parasitic diseases. Professor Riley ran a research laboratory focused on: pathogenesis of tuberculosis, development and diagnosis of vaccines, drug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial pathogens, vaccine development, drug resistance, molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases, and global health targeting diseases in urban slums.

Dr. Ethel Maciel, president of the Brazilian Tuberculosis Research Network REDE-TB, points out that Dr. Riley had a great importance for many Brazilian scientists, being responsible for the training of several during the last twenty years, in which he collaborated intensely with universities in the country. “I was influenced and awarded the possibility of doing a postdoctoral degree with him at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. In the last ten years I have collaborated with him in several articles and many researches. He was especially important in consolidating my scientific career in Brazil”, adds the epidemiologist and professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFEs).

The president of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (SBMT), Dr. Julio Croda, remembers that Dr. Riley’s history with Brazil goes back decades. He worked in the country for many years, contributing substantially in the field of microbial resistance and also in the part of tuberculosis and diseases in vulnerable populations. Since 1996 he established with several Brazilian researchers strong and effective collaboration in knowledge exchange, project financing and continuous articles between Berkeley and other Brazilian institutions. Dr. Riley marked my life, was fundamental to my first experience in the United States in 1999, when I had the opportunity to spend three months in his laboratory sequencing a new protein for leptospirosis, identified through serum screening of patients from Salvador (BA) who had the disease”, emphasizes the infectious disease doctor and professor at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS). According to Dr. Croda, the sequencing of this protein allowed it to be tested for both diagnosis and vaccine, and is currently used in the rapid test for leptospirosis produced by Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz. “O Dr. Riley is part of this patent, he is part of my story and is part of the history of dozens of students who did the internship with him,” he says.

Dr. Alberto Ko, who also helped create EPIMOL, points out that Dr. Riley was a companion of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in every way, as a leader and collaborator who created with his Brazilian colleagues new paradigms in public health research, as a mentor to a large number of students and young scientists in Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and many other places in the country, and as a sensitive and caring friend. “He left behind a huge impact on the lives of his colleagues and future generations of young people at Fiocruz. We will miss you,” laments Raj and Indra Nooyi Professor of Public Health at the Yale School of Public Health and a collaborating researcher at the Goncalo Moniz Fiocruz Institute.

Dr. José Roberto Lapa e Silva, a member of the Rede-TB Brazilian Tuberculosis Research Network, greatly lamented the loss of his friend and colleague, who he said was one of the most important people for the construction of a research group in Brazil and prevalent diseases and recognized the important work developed in the area of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases,  hospital infections with several groups. “He was an extremely important person and helped us since 1994, when we did our first activities related to tuberculosis and the assembly of a very solid group today of research in this area and especially in training for research, being one of the main researchers of a research training project in the area of TB/AIDS, which lasted 12 years,  responsible for more than 2,500 training activities. And an irreparable loss, just when we need so much support to keep alive the flame of research in Brazil, given the numerous problems we have faced lately”, lamented the pulmonologist and professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

After the sad news of his death, an international network of solidarity and support was immediately created, which already has hundreds of people. “This excitingly demonstrates how a person, over his four decades or more of activity, has been able to touch so many people around the world. This solidarity was translated with many photos in which Dr. Riley appears during his work, his classes, but also in moments of leisure and fraternization that he has always spoke of. We hope that this group of solidarity that has set up can perpetuate its legacy”, adds Dr. Lapa. To access the Lee Riley Memorial Gallery, follow the link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/riWyVN3FhMyATj6p8. To record your story, tribute or memories, check the link and follow the instructions.

Professor Riley also studied antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli strains. Escherichia coli O157:H7—Clinical aspects and novel treatment approaches. A O157:H7 infecion by E. coli, which leads to acute renal failure and hemolysis, was discovered by Dr. Riley. Check out the article published in 2019 in The New York Times.

About EPIMOL

The first edition took place in 2001, by an initiative of researchers Dr. Mitermayer Galvão dos Reis and Dr. Lee W. Riley, who based the course on a discipline he taught at the University of California. The course, conducted by the Gonçalo Moniz Institute (IGM/ Fiocruz Bahia), inspired other versions taken by researchers to Paraguay, Portugal and Rio de Janeiro, held in partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

EPIMOL begun focusing on infectious and bacterial diseases, followed by arboviruses such as Zika and Chikungunya, influenza, and in 2022, attention was paid to Covid-19, The course also focuses on the study of antimicrobial resistance, classified by the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2017, as humanity’s greatest challenge.

It is a mandatory course for graduate students in Biotechnology in Health and Investigative Medicine (PgBSMI). Over time, it began to be integrated to the teaching of other postgraduate courses and the credits of participation in the event can be reused by the students.