Friday, 2 January 2015

Brazil: A place for Science and Friendship

It's really difficult to break stereotypes, especially for developing countries, like Brazil. If you mention its name around the world they are immediately associated with: sports, music, beaches, rum and "País do Carnaval". If you ask to someone in the streets of Germany or China about personalities from Brazil, they will mention Pelé. Breaking stereotypes is a task for years or centuries but we are going in the right direction.

Hotel Ferradura/ Ferradura Resort
Last December I attended to the 2nd Proteomics Meeting of the Brazilian Proteomics Society jointly with the 2nd Pan American HUPO Meeting in Hotel Ferradura/ Ferradura Resort, Búzios, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. The venue was gorgeous, mountains close to a small bay that offers calm, clear waters and the open sea. We arrived after 2 hours by car from Rio international airport. My plans, give a talk about PRIDE and ProteomeXchange but more than that, my talk was about "if we really need to share our proteomics data".  

What I learn quickly

The first steps to establish a proteomics and mass spectrometry sociaty in Brazil were given back to the 1980s by protein chemists and mass spectrometrists in parallel. The first group composed by Professors as Lauro Morhy (University of Brasilia, UnB), Gilberto B. Domont (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, UFRJ), Lewis J. Greene (USP), Benedito de Oliveira, Sergio Marangoni and José Camillo Novello from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), and Mario S. Palma (São Paulo State University, UNESP). The second group mainly headed by Professors Marcos N. Eberlin (UNICAMP) – current president of the International Mass Spectrometry Foundation (IMSF) – and José Manoel Riveiros (USP). In 1992, Prof. Marcelo Valle de Sousa (UnB) heard for the first time about peptide mass fingerprinting from Prof. Peter Roepstorff in a conference and soon after, they were already collaborating. This helped in the set up of the first Brazilian Proteomics Laboratory headed by Prof Sousa and Carlos A. Ricart.

This early efforts produce at the end of the 1990s, a generation of proteomic scientists such as Marcus B. Smolka, Fabio GozzoVitor M. Faça, Daniel Martins de Souza,  Paulo Costa CarvalhoAna Gisele da Costa Neves Ferreira, proteomic pipelines in different parts of the country.  In 2000, Prof. Gilberto B. Domont (UFRJ) proposed the creation of the Rio de Janeiro Proteomics Network together with Drs. Jonas Perales, Ana Gisele CN Ferreira and Richard H Valente (Fiocruz Foundation) and Professors Russolina Zingalli and Paulo Bisch (UFRJ), establishing a powerful center for proteomics investigation in Brazil. In 2003, Prof. Domont inaugurated at the Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SBBq) a “Proteomics Symposium” which has become an annual tradition of the Conference and has moved and aroused interest of many students and scientists towards proteomics.

A place for good and ditributed science

Gabriel Padron
For me it was impresive how well-distributed is proteomics in Brazil. Usually in developing countries science is done in a central place or the most important cities, no more than two big labs. For example, this is the case for Cuba, were proteomics has been developed only in Padron's Lab for more than 20 years. However, as far as I see in Brazil, all the labs have their own goals, strategies and research field without big overlaping. Four of the young groups that are doing really great things:

Fabio Gozzo's Lab: The main focus of the research group is structural proteomics using mass spectrometry (MS), with a focus on chemical cross-linking methods.  

Daniel's Lab
Daniel's Lab:  The Neuroproteomics Lab aims to unravel the molecular mechanisms and biomarkers candidates associated to psychiatric disorders using proteomic tools. 

Paulo's Group: This groups is the leadering bioinformatics group in Brazil. They develop a set of user-friendly tools around the PatternLab platform for computaional proteomics. These tools are widelly used in Brazil and by other groups around the world. 

Gilberto's Group:  In the last 10 years this group have been working in cancer research, plant proteomics and in the last two years it is working on C-HPP project in human chromosome 15. Some former graduate students mentored by Gilberto at the Laboratory of Toxinology, Fiocruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro: Jonas Perales (post-doc with Cassian Bon, Institute Pasteur, France) and Ana GCN Ferreira and Richard H Valente, post-docs at PRG, Odense, Denmark with Peter Roepstorff and Thomas Morgensen, respectively. 

Gilberto's Lab
Also,  Magno Junqueira spent four years with Andrej Schevchenko and and one year  with Peter Roesptorff. Meanwhile, Fabio CS Nogueira joined the Proteomics Unit as professor in the Department of Biochemistry. But more than anything else is a hub for proteomics science in Brazil....

A place for friendship..

Gilberto Domont
But, all of this history is also about friendship and about people like Gilberto Domont "The proteomics Pelé".  As he said in his 80's party: (...) "science is about honesty, the true and friendship". Gilberto has the merit of having built a network of friends and colleagues around the same topic "proteomics" and "mass spectrometry". 

The installment of a proteomic network in Rio de Janeiro state was proposed to FAPERJ in October, 2000, by Gilberto. Five groups earned the grant to develop four projects: Vibrio cholera, dengue, snake venoms and proteome of Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus, a nitrogen fixing bacteria. Later on, in 2006, two laboratories resigned and the network incorporated three others from UFRJ, National Cancer Institute and the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. In order to join Rio de Janeiro Proteomics Network, the traditional Protein Chemistry Laboratory of the Institute of Chemistry headed by GB Domont created its Proteomics Unit. The Protein Chemistry Lab is a pioneer center in protein sequence in Brazil irradiating classical protein chemistry and proteomics to the country.

The Computational proteomics Team: "always discussing"
Sensing the growth of proteomics in Brazil, the Unit conducted the foundation of the Brazilian Society on Proteomics, which held its first meeting in December 2012. It has over 200 members and it organized the 2nd Proteomics Meeting jointly with 2nd PanAm HUPO in December, 2014. GB Domont is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Proteomics and Associate Editor of the Journal of Proteome Research as well as a member of HUPO Council. The Unit is part of the International Consortium to study chromosome 15 inside the Chromosome-centric Human Proteome Project/Biology Diseases.

Brazil is for sure not only a place for futbool and Samba. It is also a great place for sharing ideas about science, software development, research and PROTEOMICS. I saw in the Poster session more than 10 posters already published in MCP, Journal of Proteome Research or Journal of Proteomics. I saw undergraduated students with more than two publications. I saw intense discussions between laughters and friendly atmosphere. 

My biggest lesson was that science is about friendship, collaboration and humility!!!!!