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FAPESP Week symposium discusses scientific cooperation between Brazil and the US

Publicado em 17 outubro 2011

The most recent advances in science and the development of new technology obtained by researchers in Brazil and the United States over the last few years will be the topics of debates for scientists from the two countries during FAPESP Week, which will be held from October 24-26 in Washington, D.C. Sponsored and coordinated by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), the National Science Foundation, Ohio State University and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the symposium will expose Americans to Brazil's most advanced scientific production and open debate on some of most impressive scientific results obtained by both countries with a view to broadening the already significant existing bilateral partnerships in science.

During FAPESP Week, which also commemorates the Foundation's 50 years of operation, 53 researchers from diverse higher education and research institutions will highlight the results of their work; among them are: Paulo Nussenzweig, Vanderlei Bragnato, Paulo Artaxo, Marie Anne Van Sluys, Glaucia Souza, Fernando Limongi, Hugo Armelin, Mayana Zatz and Walter Colli from Universidade de São Paulo (USP); Hugo Fragnito, Carlos Lenz Cesar, Carlos Joly, Paulo Arruda, Licio Veloso and Fernando F. Costa from Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP); Tullo Vigevani from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP); Gilberto Câmara, from the National Space Research Institute (INPE); and Jorge Kalil, from the Butantan Institute.

The Brazilian scientists will debate with renowned researchers from U.S. institutions, including: Erich Grotewold, Wondwossen Gebreyes and Daniel James, from Ohio State University; Michal Lipson, from Cornell University; Thomas Lovejoy, from George Mason University; Ana Carnaval, from the City College of New York; John Wenzel, from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Tulia G. Falleti, from the University of Pennsylvania; Elizabeth Stein, from the University of New Orleans; Scott Desposato, from the University of California, San Diego; Jane Buikstra, from Arizona State University; and Nikolaos Vasilakis, from University of Texas.

Among the topics that will be debated many are on the frontiers of sciences, such as bioenergy, genomics, biodiversity, global climate change, optics and photonics, cancer, stem cells, genetic disturbances, tropical diseases and infectious diseases that affect people the world over, vaccines and medicine, in addition to political science and studies on metropolises.

For FAPESP President, Celso Lafer, "the inclusion of a symposium on the scale of FAPESP Week among the commemorative events for the Foundation's 50th anniversary is a constructive manner to recognize the importance of strengthening interaction among scientists in a globalized world."

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP's scientific director, affirms that the international collaboration proposed by the meeting is an important part of Foundation's strategy. "FAPESP has important agreements with agencies like NSF in the United States, Research Councils in the United Kingdom, DFG in Germany and CNRS in France, under which major collaborative projects are supported," he adds.

FAPESP Week is happening at a moment in which Brazilian research has reached its highest international projection, with indices that denote its greater participation in the global science and technology system. Greater Brazilian scientific production, coupled with the higher visibility attained by these studies, has inspired FAPESP to launch a Code of Good Scientific Practices, following a trend seen in several countries over the last 10 years of publishing regulations, codes of conduct and institutional policies for good procedures in this activity. In this manner, the Foundation seeks not only to give international visibility to local production but also to guarantee excellence to scientific research and technology in São Paulo State.

Topics under debate

On the first day of FAPESP Week, the session on Global Climate Change will feature a study on the interactions between society and nature in the region. In his talk on "Land change and human-environment interactions in Amazonia: integrative modeling approaches," INPE Director, Gilberto Câmara will demonstrate methods for gathering information to evaluate and prevent changes resulting from human actions in the Amazon and forms of organization that contribute to prevent deforestation and gas emissions utilizing computational systems that are in development at INPE.

On the same panel, Reynaldo Victoria will speak about the results of projects supported by the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (RPGCC), which he coordinated. The program's main targets are increasing knowledge about the climate to support policy decisions related to the changes and establishing mitigation and adaptation strategies. With investments of US$ 30 million, the RPGCC supports processing of a large volume of information produced in the country for creation of the Brazilian Model of the Global Climatic System, which will be capable of generating future climatic scenario and is necessary for Brazil to meet the monitoring targets it has committed to in international agreements. A supercomputer installed in INPE was acquired by FAPESP in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) to do this work.

In the session that includes Biodiversity and the Amazon, the coordinator of the BIOTA-FAPESP project, Carlos Joly, will present data on the first phase of the program (1999-2009), among which are 27 maps of vegetation that serve as benchmarks for the Board of State Attorneys when dealing with environmental degradation cases in six regional centers within the state of São Paulo. BIOTA-FAPESP, which is set to last another ten years (2010-2020), involves research to train researchers, bioprospection and analysis of the origins of diversity and distribution of flora and fauna in São Paulo State, all targeted toward public policy with impact on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

On the second day of FAPESP Week, Glaucia Souza, a researcher from USP's Chemistry Institute, will make a presentation about the FAPESP Research Program on Bioenergy (BIOEN) which boasts up to US$ 130 million in investments to integrate basic and applied research on sugarcane and other materials that can be used as sources of biofuel. One of BIOEN's 59 projects developed biokerosene in a laboratory to substitute the petroleum derived kerosene used in commercial aviation. Biofuel could be produced in different regions throughout Brazil with lower distribution costs and without royalties because in addition to raw materials, the conception, the projection and the construction of reactors and separators are national. The study also presents the development and innovation in the areas of chemical reaction and separation engineering, guaranteeing the purity of the product and its possible use in high altitudes.

In the genomics section during the presentation entitled "Noise or Symphony: how to make sense of transposable elements," Marie Anne Van Sluys of USP's Biosciences Institute will speak about the recent research results that confirmed the role of repetitive DNA sequences (elements of transposition) in the genome of plants. Depending on the location of these sequences, these genes that have no apparent biological function can result in the appearance of new species. Like an orchestra's execution of a musical score, these gene sequences, also called "selfish DNA" – could play the role of each instrument in executing different musical arrangements.

During the session on Drugs and Vaccines to be held on the third day of FAPESP WEEK, Licio Veloso, of Unicamp, will overview the discovery of new medicines and therapies for treatment of obesity and related disturbances with the identification of new ideas for development of more secure and effective drugs. Veloso will cover the approaches used to identify these targets and new methods employed to evaluate the relationship between the human brain and obesity. In the same session, Hugo Armelin, of the Butantan Institute, will show how toxin-rich natural poisons with biotechnological potential provoke complex biological responses capable of attacking tumor cells and inhibiting their growth and proliferation through control of the cellular cycle. Experiments to discover the molecular targets and action mechanisms of these toxins have isolated the biomedically-significant peptide toxins from the venom and secretions of lizards, fish, snakes, spiders and ticks to project and test technological innovations in these areas.

In the section on stem cells, genetic disease and cancer, Mayana Zatz, of the department of Genetics and Evolutionary Biology at USP's Biosciences Institute and coordinator of the Human Genome Studies Center (one of the 11 Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers – Cepids, created by FAPESP in 2000), will speak about stem cell research and utilization thereof for cellular therapy, particularly in neuromuscular and craniofacial diseases, as an instrument to improve comprehension of genetic expression in genetic diseases. The research includes a comparison of the potential adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) based on in vitro and in vivo sources from different animal models. The experiments for therapeutic use are targeted toward bone reparation, treatment of neuromuscular disease and muscular dystrophy, in addition to creation of a stem cell bank from patients with different genetic diseases.

Provided by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo