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Letter from the editor | 81

A different vaccine

Two stories fought for the cover of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP . We opted for the one that shows promising work at an important stage, which may come to help a large number of people. It is about the first gene (or DNA) vaccine, originally planned to fight tuberculosis, which may be effective, following experimental results, with small variations in its composition and dosage, against several kinds of cancer, leishmaniasis and arthritis. In three months, the vaccine leaves the laboratories of the College of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (USP) in Ribeirão Preto to be tested on human beings, having already been approved by the National Council of Ethics in Research. Its formulation has been worked on for some years under the leadership of the team from Ribeirão, and has received contributions from researchers from other parts, like the groups from USP in São Paulo, from the Butantan Institute, from the São Paulo State University (Unesp), and from the Federal Universities of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

Pesquisa FAPESP has been following the work for years, and already in June 1999, in issue 43, made it its main article. This present issue is one of the rare cases where we have repeated the same research on the cover, this time, in charge of the editor for Science, Carlos Fioravanti. Although there is still a long way to be covered until the vaccine proves to be effective and safe and thus wins a place of the hospital pharmacies’ shelves, all these researchers have been carrying out a notable task, recognized by the international scientific community, whose specialized magazines have frequently accepted their articles for publication.

These groups that are dealing with the gene vaccine are no exception. Brazil’s scientific production has been gaining weight [RJS4]. But last month a small controversy broke out on the subject: after three decades of continuous growth, could the production of papers by Brazilian researchers be falling? Our other candidate for the cover – for the interest it arouses in the scientific community – is a careful account by the editor for Scientific and Technological Policy, Claudia Izique, showing precisely the contrary. Taking as a basis data from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), published by the National Science Indicator, it can be seen that the number of publications from Brazil is growing more comparing with the other countries. In 2001, Brazilians published 1.44% of the scientific articles in the world, which is equivalent to some 40% of the papers published by all Latin Americans in the same period. The article brings other information that clarifies how this production is measured and observes that science carried out in Brazil is larger than as indexed by the ISI.

Another debate that has been running for some time also deserves highlighting. The rules that govern patents are being checkmated all over the world, even in the World Health Organization (WTO), which now intends to extend a minimum of protection for intellectual property to all its member countries by 2006. The theme has risen the temperate between rich nations and less developed ones each time some dispute arises, especially in the areas of biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry. The article that starts on page 26 helps the issue to be understood.

In the Technology section, editor Marcos de Oliveira tells of the latest news about the development of optic amplifiers by researchers from the Campinas State University. These devices are essential for improving the capacity of transmissions over the telephone networks. Finally, in Humanities, we give information about a project of the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP) that intends to discuss how, in historical terms, the growing specialization in scientific learning came about.