Belda: "Scientific organizations must leave their glass towers to reach citizens"

The Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) is one of the great research centers that we have in Spain. During the course of the pandemic, this public body has tried to support the authorities and, thanks to it, the different waves of the seroprevalence study that allowed us to know how many people had been infected with Covid-19 or the CombiVacs study, the first worldwide to provide data on immunogenicity derived from the combined use of two different vaccines.

Despite the fact that both works were published in the prestigious magazine The LancetThere are still many citizens who are unaware of the function – and even the existence – of this important body. Its new director, Cristóbal Belda, is aware of this, and hopes that, during this new stage at the helm of the organization, the ISCIII will occupy its rightful place to be able to promote knowledge among all. “We trust deeply in the citizenry as Stability drivers for the advancement of science and, therefore, as a tool for the progress of citizenship itself, “he said this Tuesday during his speech at the ‘II Symposium of the Health Observatory: The Lessons of Covid-19’.

Belda has recognized that it is “key” that scientific organizations know “transmit the culture of knowledge” and leave their “glass towers” to reach citizens. “If we remain locked in our glass towers and we are not capable of transmitting to the men and women of our country that what we do with their taxes is worth it, and will improve their lives, that of their children and that of their grandchildren , we will probably have a much longer way to go than if we fulfill our obligation to go out and tell it, “he said.

The one who until last August was the deputy director general of Evaluation and Promotion of Research of the ISCIII has wanted to vindicate the role that the institution has played from the moment in which The Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus genome was published, back on January 12. It was then that they began to design the first PCR probes for the diagnosis of this disease. “Whenever there is an outbreak of a very rare infectious disease, what the institute does is establish, as in this case, the initial diagnostic methods that were used to diagnose the first and many patients who came later,” he explained.

But not only that. Through the fund of 25 million euros released by the Government, an attempt was also made to answer which were the drugs that could be used at the beginning of the pandemic or whether diagnostic techniques could be developed much faster than the PCR of the beginning. Belda has been proud of both the development and the results of the ENE-COVID seroprevalence study. However, it has also expressed its caution in the face of possibility of developing an immunity study in Spain, something that has been claimed from different sectors for a long time.

“When the vaccination procedure begins and the population reaches 75%, the procedure to identify how many people have had contact with the virus begins to lose relevance. From there another question arises: Is the quality of the immune response to the vaccine good enough to be calm? This is the question that we must try to answer “, explained the specialist in medical oncology.

However, it is not exactly simple. In order to measure the immune response, it is necessary to remove from the blood of the participants “the clone of white blood cells that has been specifically selected to protect us from infection and to see if that small group of lymphocytes, when it comes into contact with the mutated protein, is capable of producing antibodies that in turn work. ” A procedure whose complexity, in Belda’s words, “borders on craftsmanship.”

Finally, the director of the Carlos III Health Institute has pointed out that the agency’s intention is to continue increasing the research staff working in it and that it has not increased in the same way as the budget, which is around 400 million euros and It is the largest in its history. “There is an expected increase of 120 people, which represents around 15% and will grow progressively,” he added.

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