FAPESP Countdown: “The many faces of the sertão”

November 13, 2014

The Brazil Institute is counting down to this year’s FAPESP Week (November 17-21), organized in collaboration with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), UC Berkeley, and UC Davis. The symposium aims at strengthening the links between scientists from Brazil and the U.S. with the objective of promoting research partnerships. Find out more about the 2014 FAPESP Week in California here

Rodrigo de Oliveiro Andrade – Pesquisa FAPESP, 2014 Print Edition, Published in July 2013

During an 1818 Austrian expedition to Brazil—a scientific investigation that brought over researchers and artists to study and depict species and landscapes characteristic of Brazilian biodiversity—two naturalists, Carl Friedrich von Martius and Johann Baptiste von Spix, were struck by the diversity of vegetation in a forest that was theoretically rare for the region around the banks of the São Francisco River in what is now the municipality of Januária, in Minas Gerais State. Their fascination was largely justified by the fact that the vegetation was in an area that was part of the Caatinga, an ecosystem identified by a predominantly semi-arid climate and scarce, highly variable water availability. The two German naturalists probably thought, like many others, that the Caatinga is a homogeneous environment, but that is not the case.

“The region has a wide variety of environmental conditions that are essential to the emergence and sustenance of a number of species well adapted to the regional climate,” said biologist Bráulio Almeida Santos of the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB), in a lecture he presented at the fifth BIOTA-FAPESP Education Conference Cycle, on June 20, 3013 in São Paulo.

The Caatinga, he explained, presently occupies 11% of Brazilian territory, an area approximately 845,000 square kilometers (km2) in size. It is divided into eight ecoregions—each having very distinct landscapes, soil types and vegetation—that can receive rainfall of less than 1,000 millimeters in a year’s time. “In some areas, a dry spell can last as long as 11 months,” he said. The region is currently experiencing its worst drought in 30 years, affecting the lives of 27 million people. In the state of Bahia alone, over 214 municipalities have declared a state of emergency this year.

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Article and photo courtesy of Revista Pesquisa FAPESP.

Brazilian researchers identify RNA that regulates cell death

August 6, 2014

Karina Toledo – Agência FAPESP, 7/30/2014

Researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) have identified an RNA known as INXS that, although containing no instructions for the production of a protein, modulates the action of an important gene in the process of apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

According to Sergio Verjovski-Almeida, professor at the USP Chemistry Institute and coordinator of a research funded by FAPESP, INXS expression is generally diminished in cancer cells, and methods that are capable of stimulating the production of this non-coding RNA can be used to treat tumors.

In experiments on mice, the USP scientists were able to effect a 10-fold reduction in the volume of subcutaneous malignant tumors by administering local injections of a plasmid – a circular DNA molecule – containing INXS. The findings were published in the most recent issue of the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

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Brazil to Breed Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

July 9, 2012

EFE/Fox News Latino, 07/08/2012

Brasilia –  The goal sounds easier than it is: Breed genetically modified mosquitoes that would actually cut down mosquito populations.

Brazilian authorities inaugurated Saturday a breeder for a genetically modified type of aedes aegypti mosquito in hopes of finding a more effective way to combat dengue, of which 431,194 cases have been registered this year nationwide.

The so-called “mosquito factory” was built at a cost of 1.7 million reais ($850,000) and financed by the government of Bahia state with the help of the Health Ministry.

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Brazil claims successful test of parasite vaccine

June 13, 2012

AFP, 06/13/2012

BRASILIA — Brazilian researchers say they have successfully tested a vaccine against schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms that afflicts more than 200 million people worldwide.

“This is an unprecedented breakthrough in medicine that involved 30 years of scientific work,” Dr Tania Araujo-Jorge, of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro, said Tuesday. The institute receives public and private funding.

“We are confident that within three years Brazil will be able to distribute the first vaccine against parasites, and help combat schistosomiasis, a disease that strikes the poorest because it is spread by unsanitary conditions.”

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Science in Northeastern Brazil

January 12, 2012

Susan Gaidos –  Science Careers/AAAS, 01/13/2012

Brazil is hardly a scientific backwater. The Brazilian government became serious about science several decades ago, and as the Brazilian economy has expanded — especially over the last 10 or 12 years — the government has increased support for science even more. According to an article in Science, in 2010 Brazil had moved up to 13th in the list of countries with the most scientific publications. (In the most recent data, they seem to have dropped back to number 14.)

But all is not sun and sandy beaches: Scientists say Brazil has long suffered from an excess of bureaucracy. Quoted in another article in Science, from 2004, Stevens Kastrup Rehen, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, says, “To give you an idea of how bureaucratic the process is, an electrophoresis apparatus that I ordered as an undergraduate was held up by customs until the end of my Ph.D.”

Another problem — hardly unique to Brazil — is an uneven geographic distribution in the support for science, and the economic and social benefits that come from it. Brazil’s scientific wealth is concentrated in the south and southwest, especially in the two big cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

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Brazil sending overseas 100.000 graduates on scholarships to the best universities

December 14, 2011

Mercopress, 12/13/2011

President Rousseff announcing “Knowledge with no Frontiers”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced the country would invest 2 billion dollars in a scholarship program to send overseas to the best world universities, 100.000 graduates.

“Brazil in coming years needs men and women well educated and prepared so that Brazil can focus on the knowledge economy, science production and technological innovation”, said Rousseff.

On launching the program “Knowledge with no Frontiers” Rousseff said that scholarships will be for one year and those benefiting students from government and private universities, so that all segments of society have access to the benefit.

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FAPESP Week targets the visibility of Brazilian science

October 26, 2011

FAPESP, 10/24/2011

For FAPESP Scientific Director Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, “there is still plenty of room for collaboration on projects and for increasing the impact of science produced in Brazil.”

The main objective of FAPESP Week is the increased visibility of Brazilian science achieved by Brazilian scientists communicating to their colleagues the results of advanced research conducted in Brazil. The symposium is being held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC October 24-26.

For FAPESP Scientific Director Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, “there is still plenty of room for collaboration on projects and for increasing the impact of science produced in Brazil.” In his presentation, Brito Cruz highlighted the sustained growth in the number of articles published by Brazilian researchers over the past 30 years as well as the training of human resources. “Of the 12,000 doctors who graduate in Brazil every year, 2,200 receive this degree at USP, 800 at Unicamp and 800 at UNESP.” This capacity points to the main challenges currently facing Brazilian science: increase the impact these scientists have on scientific production, which translates into the number of citations of their published articles, expand international cooperation, and increase the number of researchers working at universities and research institutes as well as in companies.

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