The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated this Friday the 11th, was created by the United Nations (UN) with the objective of strengthening the equality of rights between men and women in the scientific environment. The Pequeno Príncipe supports and encourages science. In its research unit, at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute, 75% are female researchers, who play a fundamental role in the combat against infant and juvenile mortality. Unfortunately, this is not the reality around the world, where only 28% of researchers are female, according to data published in a 2021 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Pequeno Príncipe Complex, made up of the Hospital, College and Research Institute, , essentially, has teams with more women since the beginning of its history. “The journey of Pequeno Príncipe started from the hands of a group of women volunteers. Mrs. Ety da Conceição Gonçalves Forte, whom I am privileged to call my mother, has been the president of our main entity for over 55 years and brought a whole care to the patients and their families. We have more than 80% women employees and 72% of leadership positions are occupied by women. We work hard to spread knowledge and we believe that it is through an efficient access to education that girls will be able to see a future in areas such as health sciences, robotics, technology, programming, engineering, among others, which are still mostly occupied by men,” points out the Pequeno Príncipe Hospital’s executive director and general director of the Research Institute, Ety Cristina Forte Carneiro.
The immunologist, researcher and director of Translational Medicine at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute, Carolina Prando, highlights the importance of the debate around women in science. “Although growing, the representation of women in science worldwide still represents only 30% of all scientists. We need to bring visibility to women’s work, not only in terms of raising funds for research development, but also actions to improve women’s self-confidence, reminding them how much they can accomplish.”
“Among the oldest scientists: Hypatia of Alexandria (351 to 370 B.C.) – mathematician, philosopher, astronomer –, and Julia Estradioto – public school student, awarded at age of 19 for creating a biodegradable plastic –, there are thousands of intelligent and curious women, who dedicate themselves to research and are part of this ‘Constellation of Science’. Like stars, they take their positions and learn to shine. It is curious that the word ‘scientist’ is a noun of two genders, requiring no inflection around if they are men or women. The scientist. The only important inflection is ours in reverence to all the women who devote their lives to science and brilliantly research like a girl,” honor from the board’s advisor, Thelma Alves de Oliveira.
From former patient at Pequeno Príncipe to active in science
At the age of 14, in 2010, Suzany Hellen Soczek was referred to the Pequeno Príncipe Hospital to treat a kidney stone. At the time, she still had no idea that her destiny would be to work in this institution. “I remember that the professionals treated me with great respect. Because I was older, they explained everything to me very carefully. I felt part of the care,” she recalls.
Determined, in her very first year of high school, Suzany was sure that she would work in the health area – but without working directly in patient care. “That’s when my dream of studying Biomedicine came up, I just didn’t realize how many possibilities this course could offer me,” she says. In 2013, she joined Pequeno Príncipe College as a full scholarship student and was in contact with a professor, who was also a researcher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute, who saw her eyes light up for research.
During her undergraduate studies, Suzany had the opportunity to do scientific initiation, which enabled a lot of learning and exchange between students and professors. When she finished college, she got a Master’s degree, worked as a research assistant, and today she is a PhD student in Biotechnology at Pequeno Príncipe College, in partnership with the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute. “Here is a privileged place, that we have women in the majority. But, in general, in most places it is not like that, unfortunately,” she adds.
She reflects on the current scenario. “Many people criticize that the results of science take too long to come out, but they don’t see that the investment in this area is very low. The exception was in relation to the coronavirus, where the world mobilized to invest in the vaccine, both financially and intellectually. Only a global pandemic made science and research be seen as important. Hopefully, this will now change,” she concludes.
The Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute counts on 16 researchers, 12 of whom are women. Get to know the researchers and their main research subjects.
Carolina Cardoso de Mello Prando – Graduated in Medicine from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), residency in Pediatrics at Campinas University (Unicamp), and specialization in Allergy and Immunology. Master’s and doctorate from Unicamp. In 2008, she started post-doctoral studies at the Université Paris-Descarte. That same year, she moved to the United States, where she stayed until 2012 at The Rockefeller University, working with advanced techniques for DNA sequencing and chromosome structure. She currently coordinates the Immunology Service of Pequeno Príncipe and is a researcher and director of Translational Medicine at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute.
She is dedicated to unveiling the genetics involved in one of the main causes of infant mortality, infections, through the study of a group of rare genetic diseases known as innate immune errors. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has also been studying the genetics of people who have been infected with or are resistant to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, trying to understand why the infection behaves so differently among people in order to identify targets for the development of new treatments.
Carmem Bonfim – Graduated in Medicine at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), with residency in Hematology and Oncology and specialization in Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT). PhD from UFPR, with emphasis on late complications after BMT. She got further training at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of Minnesota and Duke University. She was director of the pediatric BMT program at Hospital de Clínicas-UFPR until 2019 and currently coordinates the BMT Service at Pequeno Príncipe Hospital.
She works in research encompassing BMT for patients with hereditary and acquired bone marrow failure syndromes, inborn errors of immunity and inborn errors of metabolism. She is interested in BMT of newborns with genetic disorders and the use of alternative stem cell sources for pediatric BMT (cord blood and haploidentical transplants with post-transplant cyclophosphamide). She is involved in several projects with Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) and European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT), and is interested in international issues related to BMT, especially in developing countries.
Claudia Sirlene de Oliveira –She holds a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM). PhD in Biological Sciences (Biochemical Toxicology) also from UFSM, with a sandwich doctoral internship at Mercer University, Macon, GA, USA. Post-doctorate in Biological Sciences (Biochemical Toxicology) from UFSM. Currently, she is a professor/researcher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute.
Works in research that encompasses the pharmacological and toxicological aspects of elements from the periodic table. The projects aim to understand the mechanism of action of selenium in pathologies such as cancer, melasma, and Alzheimer’s disease, and the effect of mercury in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
Daniele Maria Ferreira – She is a biomedic, holds a master and doctor in Pharmacology. Post-doctorate in Science – Biochemistry and in Pharmacology. She has experience abroad, was winner of the José Ribeiro do Valle Award in 2015, the highest scientific recognition in the area of Pharmacology in Brazil. She works in activities related to innovation and technology transfer and educational initiatives.
She is dedicated to investigating the potential of new molecules, mainly isolated from natural products, for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis and intestinal mucositis induced by antineoplastic chemotherapy treatment. In addition, due to the pandemic of COVID-19 and the demand for treatments for the management of the disease, projects involving the development of new therapies for COVID-19 have been conducted.
Elizabeth Soares Fernandes – She holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology, master’s degree in Production Engineering, PhD and post-doctorate in Pharmacology. Permanent professor of the master’s and doctorate programs in Biotechnology Applied to Child and Adolescent Health and researcher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute.
Researching mechanisms involved in pathogen-host interaction and new therapies for infectious diseases such as sepsis and viral diseases. Also seeks to understand the pathological basis of chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and metabolic syndrome, and new therapeutic perspectives for both.
Fhernanda Ribeiro Smiderle – She holds bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), master’s and doctorate in Biochemistry from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR). She has six years of post-doctoral training, one of which at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Currently she is a researcher/teacher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute.
She is dedicated to research on natural compounds extracted from mushrooms and medicinal plants, as well as their therapeutic properties as activators of the immune system and against cancer. Among the projects developed, includes the development of orabase gel for the treatment of oral mucositis in patients undergoing antineoplastic treatments.
Izonete Cristina Guiloski – Graduated in Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), with master’s and doctorate degrees in Pharmacology at UFPR. She has post-doctoral studies in Ecology and Conservation (evaluation of the effects of mixed drugs on native fish) and Environmental Sciences (evaluation of trophic exposure to phthalates in native fish species). She has experience in pharmacology, with emphasis on toxicology. Currently she is a researcher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute.
She works in the evaluation of the toxicity of drugs, agrochemicals and phthalates, especially on liver, kidney, brain and reproductive functions. The projects aim to clarify the risks related to the use of these substances, effects that are related to cancer, reproductive and organ-specific disorders and, in this way, help in the control of permitted concentrations, commercialization, and use of the products, thus preventing damage to health.
Katherine Athayde Teixeira de Carvalho – Graduated in Medicine from FCMMG (abbreviation in Portuguese), with residency in Pediatrics and Neurology at São Paulo University (USP). Master in Neurology from USP and PhD in Biological Processes from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR). She also has a specialization in Neuromuscular Diseases: Biology, Pathology and Clinic of Neuromuscular Diseases from the University of Paris VII, Hospital Pitié de La Sapêtrière. Currently she is a professor/researcher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute.
Her research is related to new therapies based on human stem cells, such as umbilical cord, adipose tissue, bone marrow and their derivatives (exosomes and microRNAs) in regenerative medicine, with emphasis on central nervous system diseases (neurodegenerative and neurodevelopment). The projects relate to biosafety through toxicity and pre-clinical assays and new cell culture and isolation processes.
Líbera Maria Dalla Costa – Graduated in Pharmacy and Biochemistry from State University of Ponta Grossa (UEPG), holds a doctor’s degree in Biological Sciences (Microbiology) from São Paulo University (USP) and post-doctorate at the Public Health Laboratory Service – Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring and Reference Laboratory, PHLS – ARMRL, London, England. She is currently professor/researcher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute, where she acts as supervisor for master’s and doctoral students of the Post-Graduation Program in Biotechnology Applied to Child and Adolescent Health of Pequeno Príncipe College and Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute.
The main focus of her research includes the phenotypic and molecular study of antimicrobial resistance of bacteria and fungi in the context of human health, as well as its detection in the environment. To this end, classical microbiological techniques and new technologies are used to elucidate the dynamics of the processes of development, acquisition and spread of resistance. In addition, she conducts studies of the human microbiome and its relationship to health and disease.
Luciane Regina Cavalli – Biologist graduated from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), with doctorate and post-doctorate abroad in the area of cancer genetics. She is currently a professor/researcher at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute and at the Georgetown University Oncology Department, and a member of the Cancer Genomics Network (NAPI-Genomics). She also acts as editor and reviewer of scientific journals and research projects funded by national and international funding agencies.
She is dedicated to the study of cancer genomic instability through the characterization of genetic and molecular alterations that occur in the origin and progression of this disease. The main objective is the application of these molecular data in the prevention, prognosis, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, reducing its mortality rates. Among the main tumors studied are breast tumors, particularly those from patients in Southern Brazil, and neuroblastomas, rare pediatric tumors with aggressive clinical and biological behavior.
Mara Lúcia Cordeiro – Postdoctoral fellow in Neurobiology at the Brain Research Institute UCLA, PhD in Molecular Medicine and Pharmacology at UCLA and bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at UCLA. She is director of Institutional Relations and coordinator of research in Neuroscience Applied to Mental Health and Rare Diseases in Child and Adolescent Neuropediatrics at the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute. Professor/PhD supervisor at Pequeno Príncipe College and adjunct professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA School of Medicine.
She works on the following topics: psychological, neurological, genetic aspects, molecular, cellular and pharmacological mechanisms of mental disorders and rare diseases in neuropediatrics with emphasis on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, bipolar disorder and rare diseases in neuropediatrics.
Rosiane Guetter Mello – Pharmacist from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR). She holds a Master and PhD in Biochemistry from UFPR. She is currently director of Research at Pequeno Príncipe College and professor/researcher of the master’s and doctorate programs in Biotechnology Applied to Child and Adolescent Health (Pequeno Príncipe College and Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute), and Teaching in Health Sciences at Pequeno Príncipe College.
She is dedicated to systematic reviews and meta-analysis research, which have become fundamental research methods that underpin evidence-based practice. Thus, the objective of the projects developed is to provide scientifically based subsidies on the efficacy and use of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies. She is coordinator of the project Intellectual Disability and Autism – Clinical and Genetic Characterization of a Population from Southern Brazil.