Renewal of a historic partnership: the Mérieux Foundation, Fiocruz and Fundhacre join forces to tackle infectious diseases in Brazil

Nearly 50 years after the start of a historic collaboration to combat a meningitis epidemic in Brazil, the President of the Mérieux Foundation, Alain Mérieux, recently signed a cooperation agreement with Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) and the Acre State Hospital Foundation (Fundhacre).

The participants present at the signing of the new agreement
The participants present at the signing of the new agreement

This initiative aims to strengthen research, training and the qualification of health professionals in the SUS, Brazil’s unified health system, in addition to reinforcing diagnosis and the epidemiological and molecular surveillance of infectious diseases to deal with the current health challenges.

On October 9, 2023, Alain Mérieux visited the Fiocruz Manguinhos campus to sign a cooperation agreement between the Mérieux Foundation, Fiocruz and Fundhacre. This new agreement will allow the development of specific agreements and action plans to reinforce Brazil’s capacity to respond to infectious diseases. This reinforcement will be established at the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory in Rio Branco, located in the Charles Mérieux Center for Infectious Diseases belonging to Fundhacre.

Fiocruz will play an essential role by leading the scientific activities of this cooperation, integrating the laboratory into the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation’s epidemiological surveillance networks, providing diagnostic support services, carrying out the genetic sequencing of samples and providing training courses. Fundhacre will offer its facilities to researchers and students from Fiocruz and members of the GABRIEL Network.

Meanwhile, the Mérieux Foundation will develop research programs, studies and projects to combat infectious diseases. The Foundation also plans to integrate the laboratory into the GABRIEL Network, a network of research units led by the Mérieux Foundation since 2008, and to support cooperation programs in research and training applied to infectious diseases.

Alain Mérieux spoke about his memories of the first collaboration with Brazil and underlined the importance of diagnostics and partnerships when it comes to public health issues. “I am happy to sign this agreement today with Fundhacre and Fiocruz for this laboratory so that we can move forward together. It is very important to maintain collaboration in science,” added the President of the Mérieux Foundation.

“This cooperation with the Mérieux Foundation is very important to us. The vaccination campaign against meningitis in 1975 is linked to the beginning of an industrial revolution at Fiocruz,” said the Fiocruz President, Mario Moreira. “The new agreement is important, and it is key to have the presence of Acre,” he added.

The President of Fundhacre, João Paulo Silva, highlighted the importance of the initiative in the far north of Brazil: “In a state of one million inhabitants, among forests, rubber plantations and the remotest areas far from the center of the country, the sealing of this institutional relationship brings an immeasurable gain to the region.” 

The Mérieux Foundation in Brazil

In 1975, Brazil was facing an unprecedented meningitis epidemic. The Mérieux Foundation joined forces with the Institut Mérieux to help the Brazilian population and its government face up to this devastating situation. A production factory was built in Brazil to manufacture the vaccine against meningitis A and C and local staff were provided with training. This partnership, which also involved Fiocruz, resulted in a massive vaccination campaign covering 80 million Brazilians in just a few months, thus bringing the epidemic to an end in the country.

Read more in Le Monde