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A debt paid

Brazilian biologist returns to set up the first neuroproteomics laboratory in Latin America

carreiras_martins_d_cleanPersonal Archive Biologist Daniel Martins-de-Souza returned to Brazil this month after six years abroad with a debt paid and an ambitious scientific mission. The debt relates to the support he received from FAPESP in the form of scholarships and grants during a period of eight years. “I went to a public university, received funding from a state agency and I believe I should bring back to Brazil what I learned in the years I was away,” he says. The mission is to set up the first neuroproteomics laboratory in Latin America at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), with the goal of developing a predictive method for schizophrenia. The project was approved under the Foundation’s Young Investigators program.

Martins-de-Souza realized he was suited for a scientific career early on. The Unicamp Biochemistry Department had a graduate program policy allowing students who had published articles during their undergraduate research internships to go directly into the doctoral program. “That was exactly my case,” he says. His topic was proteomics, with the hope of discovering applications to human health. He found the ideal advisor when he met Emmanuel Dias Neto, of the A.C. Camargo Hospital, then in the Psychiatry Department at the University of São Paulo (USP) School of Medicine.

After the doctorate, during which he spent six months in Germany, Martins-de-Souza held a short post-doctorate position at Unicamp, then another at the Psychiatric Institute of the Max Planck Institute (Germany), with a grant funded by the German government, and then held another post-doctorate position at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, at the invitation of Sabine Bahn, creator of the first molecular test for the diagnosis of schizophrenia. “That led to my interest in schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses,” he says.

Now, at 34, he’s back, despite having had a real chance of obtaining a position as a professor in Europe or the United States. He will set up the neuroproteomics laboratory in the Unicamp Biochemistry Department with funding of R$208,899 plus $329,000, in addition to the use of a mass spectrometer, which will be provided as shared equipment. The difference in structure between research overseas and in Brazil is still great. “We are establishing the lab from scratch, but with the funding provided and the indispensable collaboration of my colleagues, among them Professors Wagner Gattaz, of the USP Institute of Psychiatry, and Marcos Eberlin, of the Unicamp Institute of Chemistry, we are going to reach the international level,” concludes Martins-de-Souza.