Scholarships for scientists performing research for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients
Our goal is to fund scholarships, for scientists from underrepresented backgrounds performing research with practical applications on the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients, and are currently working without monetary compensation in the US, Canada, and Brazil.
COVID-19 is affecting the human population at a record pace around the globe. Although we are trying to control the spread of infections, new outbreaks are still reported. There is a need to catalyze the development of new tests, vaccines, and treatments to control the infections around the globe and avoid future outbreaks. We are investing in people who can do this.
We are partnering with laboratories that are part of COVID-19 task force within the US, Canada, and Brazil to aid young scientists currently researching COVID-19 and other topics relevant to public health. The scholarships support individuals performing innovative scientific discoveries with potential to help COVID-19 patients on a global scale.
We expect these scholarships will have lasting impact beyond COVID-19 because they will support the career development of young scientists invested in solving public health-related challenges. We are currently living with the economic and social consequences of a global public health crisis and we hope that by investing in the next generation of scientists that we can accelerate progress towards new economic growth and social well-being.
We believe science is important because it helps us answer questions that have the power to invoke positive changes in the world. Dimensions Science is a group of people invested in fostering talented individuals from underrepresented backgrounds with ideas for potential solutions to challenging scientific problems.
Jornal Nacional (Most watched TV news in Brazil) broadcasted a story about Dimensions Sciences scholarships featuring our founder Marcia Fournier and two Dimensions Sciences Scholars Glaucia Rigotto and Rômulo Neris.
See transcript in English here
"Basically, without a salary, I was going to count on the help of my parents, my family, and I was going to try to save the maximum in finances, if it weren't for the scholarship from Dimensions Sciences. I was very happy because it gave me another perspective, now, in these next months. In fact, I have the possibility to do something that is relevant to my country, using science, and to know that there are people who support it, who care about it, it is very inspiring for us ".
See interview with Romulo Neris by BBC Brazil here
World Health Organisation's head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said numerous times since the COVID-19 pandemic started: the key message is: test, test, test. However, there has not been enough escalation in testing in most parts of the world. In the US, around 114K in each million people are tested. In Brazil, this number goes down to 16K per million.
LEONARDO SCHULTZ, a molecular biologist , is very worried about these low numbers so he is working on producing enzymes necessary for manufacturing an affordable test kit in Brazil. He hopes cheaper testing will help COVID-19 patient's access to testing in Brazil. DR. SCHULTZ explains that a global shortage of diagnostic test kits has affected almost every country and limited their ability to ramp up testing. “The world was not prepared for this massive demand for testing”, says SCHULTZ.
At present, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the dominant way that global healthcare systems are testing citizens for infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. As the crisis unfolds researchers like Dimensions Sciences’s scholar LEORNARDO SCHULTZ are trying to develop a more affordable PCR test. In Brazil the cost of imported supplies is very high and DR. SCHULTZ is making a test less dependent on imported reagents. To achieve this goal, DR. SCHULTZ is producing the reagents, specifically enzymes, using recombinant DNA technology: a series of laboratory procedures to produce enzymes.
DR. SCHULTZ is part of a team at State University of Sao Paulo (UNESP) working in partnership with startups BioBreyer @biobreyer and Biolinker @biolinker, to provide recombinant enzymes to manufacture more affordable PCR test kits used to detect the virus SARS-CoV-2. The team’s goal is to produce 8K test kits per week and consequently improve health care in response to COVID-19 pandemic.
What’s the stereotype of a scientist? A white man with glasses in a lab coat with messy hair creating a rocket? Research shows that the public at large holds stereotypes about scientists’ image, the nature of their work, and who they are outside the lab. Stereotypes lead to social discrimination that can lead to prejudice. And we don’t want that. So each week we are profiling one of our scientists to show, not only the amazing research they are working on, but also dispelling stereotypes.
DR. SCHULTZ as you can see from this picture, is not holding lab tubes, although he really loves to handle them when he is in the lab trying to come up with the right enzyme for COVID-19 testing. He is playing drums, one of the seven instruments he can play. Seven!
He has also been a volunteer teacher for underprivileged teenagers aspiring to enter an University. Using multimedia resources, DR. SCHULTZ taught cellular biology and genetics for one year in Brazil. He also loves the beach and to hang out with friends in his free time.
“My name is Isabela Lemos and I’m part of a team at the University of Uberlândia, Brazil using phage display and electrochemical technologies to develop a new test for the novel coronavirus that is fast and inexpensive. The test uses the saliva of the patient applied to a sensor that reads out the results. It’s pretty much like a diabetes test that most people are familiar with but, for Covid-19, we will use saliva instead of blood. I believe our research is going in the right direction and I’m hopeful we will be able to deliver results to tackle the pandemics”.
“Being awarded with a Dimensions Sciences scholarship was a great opportunity to work with Covid-19, something I would not have been able to do without this kind of support. And, on top of that, I really appreciate the mentoring am receiving through the Dimensions Sciences Advice, Coaching, Training and Support program (DS-ACTS.org). When I told my team at the University of Uberlândia, Brazil about DS-ACTS they were really interested in what I am learning and I intend to share some of this knowledge with them. I particularly liked the workshop on communications skills.”
This quote from ISABELA LEMOS effectively reflects Dimensions Sciences mission, i.e., to support minorities in sciences with scholarships and to offer mentoring programs preparing young scientists to be leaders in their fields.
ISABELA LEMOS, loves to push her own limits, inside and outside the research laboratory. When she is not busy with her research on a new type of Covid-19 testing, she goes mountain running, sometimes competitively, other times just for fun. Making the effort to explore new routes in the mountains once in a while breathes new life into LEMOS’s intense scientist routine.
Dimensions Sciences’ mission is to keep pushing ISABELA to run those mountains as high as she can. We aim to make her a professional who faces the challenges in the lab like she does when she’s running: with resilience, motivation and creativity while making good decisions and always learning.
Lillian's research is super interesting! DR. RUSSO is working with two other researchers and three professors at the Chemistry Institute at the University of São Paulo, Brazil where they are, at the moment, preparing cells to receive the SARS-CoV-2 virus's protein. Next, these cells will be treated with drugs that already exist in the market (a total of 80 different drugs). DR. RUSSO and the team want to find out if drugs that are already approved can make cells do an important job that the novel coronavirus manages to bypass. In scientific terms, this job is called ADP ribosylation. The cells of a patient with COVID-19 are invaded by the SARS-CoV-2 virus without being able to tell other cells that there is an enemy attacking. Without this signaling, the body does not send the immune system cells to fight the invader. If any of the 80 drugs that will be tested can make the cells detect and destroy the virus, the body will be able to produce antibodies and the patient will get better.
“With the scholarship, I could do something I truly love: working at a laboratory bench doing research that can impact patients all over the world.”
DR. RUSSO has been spending long hours at the laboratory but thanks to Dimensions Sciences for a three-month scholarship and mentoring, a period in which she hopes to make great discoveries and positively impact the lives of patients worldwide!
Play your role in this constructive cause. Donate and make a difference in projects like the one DR. RUSSO is working in Brazil. A small donation can make a huge difference. Thank you!
For Juliana, Dimensions Sciences support is especially important because it will help to increase the number of testing in the region she lives in a timing of increasing demand of trained personnel in molecular tests. “This type of initiative, that supports front line researchers in the COVID-19 task force laboratories in Brazil is extremely important because it accelerates generation of new knowledge and enhances science and technology in the country”. Juliana will work performing diagnostic tests for COVID-19.
“I am part of the Supera Technology Park of the University of Sao Paulo, which counts with the participation of startups and more than 90 volunteers in favor of carrying out molecular diagnostic tests in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. We aim to increase the testing capacity of the health system, making it possible to reduce the rate of infection and mortality from covid-19 by performing up to 30,000 tests. This project has a great social impact because the focus is on testing patients who depend exclusively on the public health system (SUS). Still in parallel, research is being conducted to optimize, maximize and improve the existing techniques and protocols for the diagnosis of coronavirus”.
Italo works at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. “I currently work with the infection of respiratory viruses in organs and cells of the immune system. We know that several viruses, including the flu virus, can infect and remain viable in organs and cells responsible for organizing immune responses to fight viruses. Understanding this phenomenon in which viruses take advantage of cells to escape the body's response to the COVID-19 infection is of paramount importance, as it can directly impact on treatment of patients. Second, we have evidence that lymphoid organs, such as tonsils, lymph nodes and spleen, are possible sanctuaries where viruses can remain without causing symptoms, but due to some immunosuppressive factor, they can return to being active and infectious for the population, even after the period of pandemic".