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Letter from the editor | 70

Good news to finish the year

The pre-historical cultures of the country, before the very existence of Brazil itself, along with its rich biodiversity, both still poorly studied, have resources to offer more to contemporary scientific research. Combined, therefore, they will eventually reveal an impressive fountain for the identification of new drugs which, besides telling us about certain strategies, paths and symbolic productions of the primitive inhabitants of the country in the struggle for their own survival, physical and spiritual well being, bring promises of the development of a pharmaceutical industry well rooted – finally – on national soil. It is precisely this that you can verify in the cover story of this bulky issue of Pesquisa FAPESP.

Put together by the special reporter Marcos Pivetta, the story reports in detail the work of a group of São Paulo researchers that permitted the identification of 164 plants native to the Brazilian forest, used by the Krahô Indians, a tribe from the State of Tocantins, in intriguing healing rituals. Of these, 138 show some type of influence on the central nervous system, the area of interest to the research group. A long road to be covered can be expected, as is the norm in pharmaceutical research, until the main active ingredients of these plants transmute themselves into pharmaceutical medicines, in some form of well being for people with problems over which they have the potential to react and at the same time in income and benefit, with percentages, well justified, destined to the Krahô Indians. However, as of now, we can celebrate the fine results of the work.

On the scientific research front, there are several good news that are contained in this issue of the magazine. In one of them, São Paulo researchers demonstrate that the popular “quebra-pedra” (shatterstone) tea, the Phyllantus niruri, doesn’t in fact break anything, but on the other hand it impedes the crystals of calcium oxalate – the chemical compound most common in such kidney stones – from grouping together. Consequently, its action is preventative.

The report that opens the Technology section of the magazine, shows that the company incubators, generally linked to technology parks or sites, have become over a fifteen year period, a powerful world phenomenon to bring about innovation in the most varied fields of production. In 1985, there were 200 throughout the world and today they have reached 3,000, of which 800 are in the United States. In Brazil there are 159, a number that reveals an extraordinary feat when it is known that in 1986 there were only 2 (two). The greatest challenge that faces each small company that hatches under the protective shade of the incubator is most definitely to carry on its development on its own feet, as it is launched, without a stylish send-off, into the real world of the market. The expectations of those who reach this point are what are presented in the report on recently graduated companies through the Ciatec of Campinas.

Finally to wrap up, a special spotlight for the report that opens the Humanities section, referring to a very wide international survey – covering some 135 countries, between 1950 and 1990 – and of great importance about the relationship between economic development and sustainability of democracies. For what it brings in subsidies for the contemporary reflections about the relationship between economy and politics, between income per capita of the population and democratic regimes (it would be completely safe with an annual income of US$ 6,000), this study, which had the participation of a Brazilian supported by FAPESP, strongly disputed the right to the cover of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP .