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Letter from the editor | 74

From fear to hope

Fear in its most brutal form, that unconscious and ancestral dread that works in favor of the man’s instinct for survival as well as for other animals, which produces instantaneous reactions in the face of something, real or imaginary, perceived as a threat, and seems to be well described in the cover story of this issue. Certainly, one is not here dealing with to declaiming fear, “our father and our companion” in the poetic sharp and painful manner of Carlos Drummond de Andrade in his International Congress of Fear. Instead of this, we are showing evidences, brought to light by a research group, that three extremely primitive structures on the evolutionary scale of the brain, present in animal species right from the era of the first reptiles to roam the earth, and could be implicated with the more archaic, primordial fear. Evidence that necessarily provokes a revision of the aversive /reaction stimulus circuit of the organism’s defense system that, in this case, reduces a little the role of the brain amygdala in it, regarded until now as the only structure responsible for the process of separation between that which could or could not be a threat to the organism. The story written by Marcos Pivetta, also makes reference to the expectation of the researchers that a greater understanding of the brain circuits involved in fear and in anxiety could result in new treatments for psychiatric illnesses in which these two phenomena are fundamental components.

From fear to hope. This is the path proposed by the report on the experiments using photodynamic therapy, a new and promising treatment against cancers, which here in this country has been put into effect by the Research Center into Optics and Photoptics, one of the ten Centers of Innovation and Diffusion (Cepids) supported by FAPESP since 2000. Approved in 1998 by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), the American government agency for the control of food and medicines, the photodynamic therapy (PDT) is already in use in eighteen countries. In the Brazilian case, reports Marcos de Oliveira in the opening story of the Technology section, a group of almost thirty people involved with the research developed the equipment, perfected the PDT technique and are now carrying out clinical tests to finalize the protocol that will guide Brazilian medical doctors in this specialty. The results presented up until now by the tests are very exciting.

On the scientific and political policy front, even in Brazil, it is not always the public sector that is the main actor of certain events that come into play, winding on and on and finally ending up becoming a turning point for a promising situation. The announcement on the 13th of March of the formation of the biotechnology company Alellyx through venture capital funding by Votorantim Ventures and involving five researchers who are the founding partners, clearly shows that, at times, the private sector can dominate the scene. And, by doing so, increases the expectations that we might be getting close to the turning point which, in the specific case of this situation, would be the so desired balance between the public and private sectors in research and development (R&D) in Brazil. It is essential to observe that the act into which the Alellyx fits in got started in 1997 with FAPESP’s decision to begin a research program into genomics, beginning with the sequencing of Xylella fastidiosa . It is exactly to this phytopathogen, which in 2000 internationally projected Brazilian competence in molecular biology, which the name of the company alludes, in an almost exact inversion of its lettering.

Furthermore, one will have to observe how the actors do their job in his play and evolve in order not to miss the moment in which the balance between public and private investment in R&D testifies the mature insertion of scientific and technological research into the country’s economy.