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Discover Petrobras' scientific journey to combat the coronavirus so far

06/05/2020 | 17h15
Discover Petrobras' scientific journey to combat the coronavirus so far
Petrobras Agency Petrobras Agency

The collective effort of Petrobras specialists engaged in the scientific front to fight the coronavirus sparked, in less than two months, an unprecedented movement in the company: it created an entire ecosystem to stimulate creative and innovative ideas to face the pandemic, mobilizing not only employees , but also the academic community, research institutions, social organizations and companies.


The balance has been significant: this collective effort has captured, so far, more than 300 ideas (through an initial exercise of design thinking and the call for ideas, open to the whole company). And the utilization rate was considerable, after analyzing the relevance and the potential impact on society. The suggestions used were immediately connected to agile conveyors in progress or already implemented.




Motivated by the sense of urgency and solidarity that the moment demands, this team of specialists is guided by a priority: directing their technical capacity to help save lives. From the first brainstorming meetings, at the end of March, to the implementation of initiatives such as the development of low-cost lung ventilators, this effort has been gaining more and more muscle and currently brings together dozens of employees from the most diverse specialties.


With the objective of acting in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease, the scientific team is today divided into four major themes: mechanical ventilators; digital technologies (donation of computational capacity, application of Business Intelligence and thermographic cameras); testing for Covid-19, in addition to the operations & logistics front.


“In our meetings, we always emphasize that our main objective is to save lives and, in this context, the time to implement the solution is essential. Petrobras has an exceptional technical staff and a capacity to mobilize relevant resources, in addition to our entire network of relationships. We believe that we can direct this energy and help the country to face this unprecedented challenge ”, said the leader of the Scientific Response Team, Antonio Vicente.


Model is here to stay 

All this effort has been made by the teams working remotely in the home office, guided by agile methodologies. If remote performance, at first, seemed to be an obstacle, after a short time it turned out to be an opportunity. Online work gave projects speed - since the meetings are not hostage to traffic, they do not depend on travel or hotel scheduling, for example. The same goes for interaction with companies, universities and partners: everything is remote, by videoconference, and fast, at the fast pace inherent in the digital world.


“I have no doubt that this is a model that is here to stay. The work we have been doing on the scientific front is the perfect translation of the agile methodology - with check point and daily monitoring, in addition to fast deliveries. Projects that could last for months are showing results in a few weeks, ”said ECR member José André.


Results so far 

At the top of the list of ideas sent, the topic “pulmonary ventilators”, crucial for the care of critically ill patients with Covid-19, received more suggestions (18). As a result, Petrobras is working in partnership with Coppe-UFRJ to support the development of prototypes that can be used in the treatment of Covid-19. The low-cost ventilator model was approved in safety tests by Coppe and now awaits the second stage of testing with Covid-19 patients.


In parallel, Petrobras supports the maintenance and recovery of ventilators, in partnership with Senai, and launched a national public selection, in partnership with the Brazilian Petroleum Institute (IBP), for the development of pulmonary ventilators, accelerating their production and increasing its availability in the country.


Digital technologies 

Another champion of receiving ideas was the front of digital technologies. The partnership with Hospital das Clínicas, from USP, for example, for the development of an intelligent platform with algorithms capable of detecting the presence of the virus in X-ray exams and computed tomography scans, is the result of a suggestion sent by employees.


The use of thermal cameras for temperature measurement is also the result of suggestions sent by the company's professionals. The initiative is already evolving towards the application of artificial intelligence in real-time image recognition of employees.


Use of supercomputers and intelligent system 

In the teams' first brainstorming meetings, a series of ideas that were fast to implement - and had a promising impact, were already emerging. One of them was the reallocation of the processing capacity of high performance computers (HPC) - the so-called “supercomputers” - to collaborate with research to combat the coronavirus. The objective was to contribute to the Folding @ home initiative, coordinated by foreign universities, dedicated to studying how the coronavirus behaves in the human body and how the disease evolves, from the interaction of viral proteins, paving the way for the development of medicines and vaccines .




Engagement and purpose 

Another advance made by the scientific team was the partnership with Firjan SENAI, which seeks to expand the capacity to carry out Covid-19 tests in the country. The proposal under study is to increase the efficiency of the gold standard tests for coronavirus diagnosis, with cost reduction, making the tests accessible to a greater number of people.


“The engagement and commitment of colleagues on all fronts of this work is impressive. There is a very strong sense of purpose to use our knowledge and make it available to society, at this moment as critical as what we are experiencing ”, observed Cenpes executive manager, Juliano Dantas. The Director of Digital Transformation and Innovation Nicolas Simone adds: “The positive point of this crisis that we face is being united and focused to achieve, through innovation, solutions to fight the coronavirus. There is nothing stronger to mobilize and unite us, as a collective, than a common purpose ”.

Font: T&B Petroleum/Petrobras Agency
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