José Mustre de León
Director General
View from the Top

Basic Research a Pillar for Healthcare

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 17:45

Q: How can greater investment in research change the local healthcare sector?

A: Basic research is essential for the development of many economic sectors but it is often discounted because its effects are not seen immediately. However, delaying investment in basic research will lead us to fall behind other economies and might worsen current healthcare problems or create new ones. CINVESTAV has tried to maintain a constant investment flow in research and even to compensate for the lost resources that were once given to us by the federal government. We do not want any of our research projects to stop.

Q: How is CINVESTAV directly contributing to the improvement of healthcare in Mexico?

A: We have two key projects. The first has a strong social impact in that it focuses on the development of a vaccine for Chagas disease, which is not a priority for developed economies. This project has received an annual stipend from the Carlos Slim Foundation of MX$10 million (US$52,604) for the past four years, which the company just renewed for the coming four years. We are close to clinical trials and continuing this project is essential for the population.

The second project focuses on several analgesic properties of stem cells. In March 2019, we signed an agreement with a South Korean company to commercialize these cells and cell growth factors in the Asian country for analgesic and dermatological purposes.

Q: How has CINVESTAV’s relationship with pharmaceutical companies evolved?

A: We need a strong collaboration with other players to ensure researchers have direct contact with the immediate medical needs of the population. CINVESTAV achieves this through several associations with public and private hospitals, which we aim to reinforce. Many of our graduates are already working in the healthcare sector and in hospitals within the Ministry of Health’s network. Alliances with pharmaceutical companies are extremely important for the center. For instance, we are working with Neolpharma in the development of two new medications. However, our relationship with these players could be stronger.

Q: How can public research help alleviate Mexico’s epidemiological burden?

A: A research group at CINVESTAV’s Genomics Center in Irapuato is studying genomic traits in ancestry to identify genetic markers that make Mexicans prone to certain diseases. Mexicans have a mixture of South European and indigenous ancestry, so treatments developed for other populations may affect Mexicans differently. This research group has the largest genomic database of indigenous American population, from Canada to Argentina, in the world. Due to the size of this project, federal funding was insufficient so it is also being funded by England and the EU.

Q: What is the status of CINVESTAV’s Center for Aging Research?

A: In 2018, we finalized the construction of the center and we are now working to obtain all necessary certifications. The center has allied with several international institutes, including the University of Barcelona and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging. However, the Center for Aging Research is being financed by a joint fund between Mexico City and CONACYT and the latter is reconsidering several projects that it had supported in previous years, so we are uncertain whether they will continue to fund the center.

Our goal for 2019 is to finish the Center for Aging Research’s certification processes, to focus on the commercial aspects of the stem cell project and to lead our research projects into the creation of commercial solutions.