Virology, a matter of national security

The researcher Carlos Arias Ortiz promotes the creation of the National Center that coordinates the work in virology contingencies like the coronavirus.

Virology, a matter of national security
Virology, a national security issue. Photo by Fusion Medical Animation / Unsplash

If the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador approves it and grants the required budget, Mexico could see the start of the National Virology Center until 2023 to confront, with coordinated scientific and technological development, epidemics like Covid-19, said researcher Carlos Arias Ortiz, who is promoting the National Research and Advocacy Project in this specialty.

For the researcher from the Biotechnology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), this issue "is a matter of national security. In an interview with El Sol de México, he said that at this time the center is being evaluated so that it can be approved by the National Council of Science and Technology and resources can be allocated for its creation, but so far this process is "moving slowly" and it is hoped that a decision will be made soon.

On March 30, Conacyt director María Elena Álvarez-Buylla told Mexico's El Sol newspaper that some calls for proposals will be made soon and announcements will be made to the scientific community.

Having a center like this will allow the coordination of the efforts that are currently being made by 10 to 15 research groups in virology.

The purpose of this center is that Mexico can have a coordination space to address different areas of virology, such as respiratory viruses (Covid-19 or influenza), gastrointestinal viruses, those transmitted by mosquitoes (dengue, zika), cancer or HIV, said Arias Ortiz.

In Mexico, there are only 70 research groups that need to be strengthened to deal with the challenge posed by the impact of the viruses.

"The center could begin in 2023, this if there are resources. Its creation is being considered, hoping that the budgets exist. Of course, there are many priorities and many problems, so, for now, it is being evaluated, I would like it to be so," confided the also National Prize of Science and Arts.

This is the ideal moment for the recognition of the relevance of science and, therefore, of its support. It is historical, it is not of the last two years or the last six years, in Mexico, there has always been little conviction of the authorities of the federal government and to support it more decisively.

In the beginning, it is hoped that once the headquarters of what would be the National Virology Center are created, it will be possible to attract young scientists who have left the country.

It is time to rethink that vision, like that of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has clearly shown no appreciation or respect for knowledge or technology and science. This is reflected in the budget that Conacyt or the agencies have for the support of science which has been unfortunately low and insufficient.

She preferred not to talk about how much the project will cost, because the conditions in the country are difficult, but considered that it is time to bet on science. From the center, which would be an international reference, the aim is to generate a technological platform that "allows a rapid response to situations such as the current epidemic in terms of vaccine production, rapid and cheap diagnostic methods, evaluation or development of antivirals.

"To do this, we must have a certain structure, plan it and create it not overnight, from one year to the next, but in the medium term to make progress on these technology platforms that can quickly adapt to the problems we face. With a clear infrastructure and coordinated groups, Mexico would stop putting its national security at risk, because it would stop being "in line to get a possible cure for Covid-19, we could try and get into that scenario, otherwise, we have to wait for them to be developed first, to be produced massively, and then to be distributed among the countries, then it is depending on its turn".