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Effects of September 11

Redoubled security in the USA because of terror affects research in Brazil

MIGUEL BOYAYANHandling of biological material at Cartesius: greater demand MIGUEL BOYAYAN

The increased concern with security because of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th has been causing effects on research carried out in Brazil – for better and for worse. The Cartesius Analytic Unit, of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the University of São Paulo, has recorded considerable growth in demand for the analysis of bioequivalence, which can use live samples, on the part of countries from the Middle East. Every month, Cartesius receives between 8,000 and 10,000 samples for testing from various Brazilian states and from countries like Chile and Thailand. “Between September and October, we received over 20,000 samples from Jordan”, advises Gilberto De Nucci, the coordinator of the analytic unit.

He attributes this sudden increase to probable difficulties that Jordan, like other Muslim countries, may be facing in sending material to the United States, England and Germany, where most of the first class laboratories specialized in analysis of bioequivalence are concentrated. “What is happening is a re-routing of demand”, he reckons. De Nucci believes that the Cartesius Unit’s new customers may have found references to the institute on the Internet, and he sees opportunities for expansion in this movement. “Terror has succeeded in making our bureaucracy competitive”, says the researcher wryly.

The bad side is that now, generally speaking, there is greater difficulty in getting imported research material through the customs. It is subject to an additional obligatory insurance premium of 0.15%, and can only be shipped on cargo flights, when the services of American airlines are used. “This means that the parcels do not arrive at Guarulhos Airport, where our licenses are, and all the unloading takes place at Viracopos, which is small and may come to have problems with infrastructure” comments Rosely Figueiredo Prado, FAPESP’s deputy import manager. She is responsible for the import of material for the projects supported by the Foundation, always observing the rules of the competent bodies as to the right of use. These restrictions do not apply to imported products that have been dispatched by airlines of other nationalities. “Another novelty is the suspension of joint shipments in the United States, which puts the cost of freight up”, she says.

Professor Vanderlei Canhos, who is the international coordinator for FAPESP’s Biota Program, says that security procedures for the remittance of pathogenic biological material have already been much stricter since the Gulf War, at the beginning of the 90’s. A former president of the World Federation for the Collection of Cultures, he says that since those days the rules for granting authorization for importing pathogens have become much stricter, and the prices of samples have gone up a lot, because the use of safer packaging is obligatory. “A sample that a few years ago would have cost, say, US$ 30, may cost up to US$ 500 today”, he says. Greater caution in the assessment of the documents of the institutions involved has also lengthened the period for the material to be received, which has leapt from a couple of weeks to up to three months.

One case shows, however, that the panic that has set on the United States in the face of attacks with biological weapons may jeopardize even remittances that are perfectly in accordance with the international rules. At the beginning of October, a sample of 23 antibodies for receptors of peptides that researcher Priniee Senanaeycke, of the Eye Clinic Foundation, tried to send to Brazil by Federal Express, had to be submitted to an inspection by the army on shipment, and was late two weeks in reaching the Federal University of São Paulo, which it was donated to. The sample is fundamental for Priniee to disseminate knowledge on new techniques for the treatment of ophthalmogical disturbances during her one month stay at the university.