REDE-TB: a new cooperation style

Publicação: 8 de January de 2021

Synergy of complementarities of REDE-TB paves the way for knowledge transfer to society

Creation of the REDE put gave tuberculosis visibility in Public Policies, in the Public Notices of the Main Financing Agencies in the Country, in addition to giving recognition and visibility to research and researchers, as well as to the catastrophe and neglect situation of the disease and the people affected by it

Despite the significant progress in scientific research related to tuberculosis (TB) and other mycobacteriosis in Brazil, at the beginning of the millennium, the country was still experiencing weak cooperation between the various actors in this area: industry, universities, research institutes, civil society, and health services, including the National TB Control Program (PNCT). In 2001, the Brazilian Network for Research on Tuberculosis REDE-TB was created as a multidisciplinary group of Brazilian researchers and students, having as partners the civil society and representatives of the health services that worked with TB and HIV/AIDS throughout the country. REDE-TB helped to build the necessary bridges between these different actors to promote research and educational activities in an integrated manner.

Vice-President elected of REDE-TB, Dr. Ricardo Alexandre Arcêncio, recalls the important partnership between REDE-TB and the Center for Tuberculosis Research at the Ribeirão Preto Medical School – USP, which has used several innovative strategies for the development of new preventive and therapeutic vaccines for the control of tuberculosis. “In recent times, the sense of collectivity and cohesion has become increasingly evident in order to achieve a common good for human survival, the development and channeling of efforts to overcome problems currently faced in our society, such as the pandemic of COVID-19. With great difficulty, with millions of lives lost day after day, the pandemic stripped us as it revealed serious failures in the Health System to organize itself in an intelligent, strategic and sustainable way”, he acknowledges.

Professor Arcêncio also draws attention to the lack of investment that put institutions and researchers in the midst of chaos. “The Teaching and Research Institutions, which are not covered by a public investment plan, had their installed capacity impaired due to a lack of equipment, supplies, reagents, etc. There were power and water shortages, but there was no lack of vision and commitment in the social capital of these Universities”, he highlights. Still according to him, from the pandemic, one of the many lessons was the synergy between actors, institutions and society. “The overcoming of individuality, of well-known competitiveness in academic circles has given way to cooperation, solidarity and cohesion, fundamental values that guide and sustain the Networks (from Latin rete, which has unique pattern and structure, and operates in synergy).

The president of REDE-TB, Dr. Ethel Maciel, emphasizes that the creation of Research Cooperation Networks has been stimulated for more than 30 years in Brazil, and important experiences have happened in this horizon, such as the Brazilian Network for Research on Tuberculosis REDE-TB, which emerged through the initiative of a group of leading researchers in the field of tuberculosis and was funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), from the Millennium Institutes, which organized themselves in different areas to find answers and solutions to the situation of tuberculosis in the country. “This Network was structured in strategic areas of medicines, diagnostic tests, epidemiology, human resources, operational research and social mobilization, with emphasis on the participation and involvement of Organized Civil Society, which gave great impetus to political actions and visibility to the work of REDE-TB”, he adds.

According to the president, the creation of the REDE put gave tuberculosis visibility in Public Policies, in the Public Notices of the Main Financing Agencies in the Country, in addition to giving recognition and visibility to research and researchers, as well as to the catastrophe and neglect situation of the disease and the people affected by it. “The main scientific and technological productions achieved today in the area of TB in Brazil are from members that make up this NETWORK and the synergy and cohesion between them. Large projects have been led by REDE-TB researchers, which have an impact on the national scene and notoriety on the international scene. An example of this is the BCG vaccine for coping with COVID-19, under the leadership of Dr. Margareth Dalcolmo and Dr. Julio Croda”, he points out.

Civil Society also brings a project of paramount importance as it proposes to assess the impact of the pandemic in the context of TB. The success of the REDE is so significant that it motivated countries like Russia, India, China and South Africa to join efforts to launch the BRICS TB Research Network, which aims to promote and conduct collaborative scientific research across the spectrum, from the basics operational, for the development and innovation in diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and schemes, control of TB infection and provision of services to patients, under the inspiration of REDE-TB, and strongly supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Also according to the vice president, REDE-TB in 2020 also found itself committed to the pandemic in order to elucidate issues little understood by society, promoting Webinars, which always counted on their panels with renowned experts discussing topics such as the treatment of COVID-19, vaccines, adaptive immunity resulting from Sars-CoV-2 and the passport to immunity, among others, always based on scientific evidence. “Our researchers tirelessly were and are available to society, providing all kinds of clarifications and guidance on tuberculosis, COVID-19 and many other diseases of relevant importance to public health”, adds Dr. Arcêncio.

Finally, he admits that the work developed by REDE-TB is in line with the principle and commitment to health in search of equity. Por meio de pesquisas no âmbito da Rede, importantes consensos, que nutrem políticas públicas, decisões clínicas, ações em serviços de saúde, vêm sendo produzidos. “I also could not fail to register the just and deserved recognition to Dr. Margareth Dalcolmo, member of REDE-TB, as personality of the year for her contributions to COVID-19, as well as recognition for Dr. Ethel Maciel, for her work in the field of Human Rights, in giving voice and defending the inclusion of vulnerable populations in the contingency plan of the pandemic”, he celebrates.

The insertion of REDE-TB has also been notable in the Working Group (WG) for the COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil. The strategic and fruitful articulation with the instances of power at the macro (Ministry of Health), meso and micro levels, were significant, which contributed greatly to the capillarity of research and thus, in the transfer of knowledge. “The governance of REDE-TB is a central issue for it to be sustainable and operational, and having Civil Society in its structure is a sine-qua-non condition for achieving this purpose. The integration model and articulated sum of efforts, as well as the process of creation, promotion, maintenance and objectives observed in REDE TB can extrapolate to other fields of health”, concludes the president, Dra. Ethel.