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Letter from the editor | 273

Advances in Alzheimer’s research

One of the benefits of the University of São Paulo’s link with the city of São Paulo’s postmortem investigation service is the Biobank brain collection for studies into aging. The 3,000 specimens, donated by relatives of people who were subject to an autopsy after their death, are a highly valuable contribution to research, enabling advances in the study of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Analysis of 455 samples from the database found that psychiatric disorders often associated with Alzheimer’s may result from neurological damage typical of the early stages of the disease. It was previously thought that depression and anxiety, which often accompany aging, may increase the risk of developing the chronic degenerative disease.

Since the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s—memory loss and dementia—only manifest years after the onset of neurological damage, this link to other psychiatric disorders could be highly useful to medicine. When diagnosed early, patients can benefit more from existing treatments and could help test new drugs, as described in the cover story of this issue.


In 2013, the Brazilian National Service for Industrial Training (SENAI), a professional education organization, began a new initiative with the National Confederation of Industry (CNI). SENAI Innovation Institutes (ISIs) were created to promote the research and development of technological solutions to challenges faced by Brazilian industry. Inspired by the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany, there are now 21 ISIs spread around the country: they employ 550 researchers, 40% of whom have a master’s degree or PhD, and have already completed more than 500 projects for the sector.

Before the ISIs, there was CIMATEC (Manufacturing and Technology Integrated Campus), inaugurated in Bahia in 2002, which stands out among SENAI’s initiatives due to the range of fields it covers and its dynamic links with businesses in various industries. The complex offers educational programs—including technical courses, undergraduate degrees, and graduate courses in topics of interest to industry—as well as research, with a technology center and three ISIs, and is also home to the Yemoja supercomputer.

This issue also features reports on two startup initiatives. In São Paulo, the Paulista Innovation Fund (FIP) completed the analysis phase of 1,600 business opportunities and assembled a portfolio of 20 companies. With R$105 million from the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), SEBRAE, Agência Desenvolve SP, FINEP, FAPESP, and Jive Investments, the FIP is helping to manage and stimulate the growth of businesses that it aims to sell by 2021, when its operations will end.

In Santiago, an initiative by the Chilean government is attracting entrepreneurs from home and abroad to take part in accelerators for new businesses. Since 2010, Startup Chile has supported 1,400 companies, more than half of which have gone to market, creating 1,500 domestic jobs and 5,000 more overseas. Entrepreneurs from nearly 80 countries have already taken part in the accelerator, which has invested a total of US$30 million.

To close, good news: the National Museum has combed through the rubble and managed to recover much of the skeleton of Luzia, one of the oldest human fossils in the Americas, and the valuable meteorite Angra dos Reis.