Associate Professor Eduardo Coelho is a VALIDATE Network Investigator based at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. In this VALID8 interview, Eduardo discusses the lack of investment for vaccine development in Brazil and the “universe” of genes in leishmania.
1 - What do you do you research?
My team and I work on projects that research leishmaniasis. We focus on prevention in the form of the development of new vaccines, the improvement of laboratory and immunological diagnosis and in the treatment of tegumentary and visceral leishmaniasis in humans and dogs. We use different biotechnologies including bioinformatics, phage display and immunoproteomics in order to find new technological biomarkers that can be used against a disease affects several populations in countries around the world.
2 - What do you tell non-scientists you do?
We would like to improve the ways to prevent diseases happening in the world. We aim to do this through vaccination and through quickly identifying infected people and animals such as dogs.
3 - What drew you to studying vaccines?
It is a fascinating job. The lack of vaccines for various diseases causes many people to suffer, and greater commitment and funding to competent researchers in the world could lead more quickly to the control or eradication of various diseases that are currently active in the world.
4 - Why is your work important and what could your work lead to?
By carrying out our work, we will be able to prevent the spread of disease by protecting healthy people and animals. This in turn would prevent many unnecessary deaths and decreasing the technical and financial impact on public health around the world. When done well, Vaccines can eradicate disease. In the case of my group, due to political and other problems in Brazil, we have very little investment for the development of new vaccines, not only in the field of leishmaniasis, but also in other diseases, so that partnerships with funding Institutions from abroad could help us to solve this relevant problem.
5 - What is the most interesting thing you have learned in your job?
I think is most interesting and stimulating part of my job is studying the universe of 8,000 genes that express proteins in leishmania and identifying those proteins that we can use to produce a vaccine that will protect people against infection. That is, using an evil in order to protect people against infection.
6 - What is the best part of your job?
Observing that the proteins that we have selected are able to protect mice, hamsters and dogs against infection by a parasite that causes a disease in humans. Also, to know that in the future, with investments and appropriate tests, could be used to develop a vaccine for people in countries where tegumentary and visceral leishmaniasis are endemic. A vaccine would also help protect people in countries where the pathogens are not endemic, since people in non-endemic travel to endemic areas can also be infected. A global vaccine could help both kinds of people.
7 - What is the most challenging part of your job or research?
It is a very difficult job! We have to identify leishmania proteins that are immunogenic and can induce a specific acquired cellular immune response in which the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines occurs whilst ensuring this does not cause harm to patients.
8 - Why are vaccines important?
Vaccines are of great importance because they can protect populations living in the richest and poorest countries in the world. Vaccines are cheaper to produce and take less time to be tested when compared to new pharmaceuticals and therefore have higher positive impact on the public health systems around the world.
Find out more
You can find more about Eduaro's research on his VALIDATE biography page.
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