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Research attracts the interest of private companies

Chemical Institute of USP is betting on the future

Founded in 1970, the Chemical Institute of the University of São Paulo (IQ-USP/SP) was always a scientific reference point. “As tine went by, lots of the equipment and all of the physical infrastructure and both the electrical and hydraulic systems of the old laboratories went into deterioration”, recalls Paulo Sérgio Santos, the current director of the IQ. Termites, lack of modern exhaust fans, overloaded electrical circuits, voltage fluctuations and the contamination of the laboratory environment, threatened the experiments and the researchers' health, and the overloaded structure impeded the purchase of more modern equipment. The IQ received resources through FAPESP's Infrastructure Program to renovate and to expand its laboratories.

Today, the institute brings together eighty research groups throughout its fifty laboratories, distributed over thirteen blocks, and can count upon the support of a central Analytical Center where there are large pieces of equipment such as the nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometers for common use. These pieces of equipment are also used in the services offered communities both internal and external. “Science is evolving so quickly that the equipment and installations can become outdated in a very short period of time”, comments Santos. Nevertheless, the renovation of the infrastructure demands lots of money.

For this reason many companies have deactivated their laboratories and are searching for solutions to problems and new technologies in research centers such as the IQ. Santos give as an example the system for the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy developed at the Photochemical Laboratory, already at the phase of the negotiation of a patent and that has awoken the interest of multinational companies. Also awakening the interest of companies is the research that is looking into the relationship between molecular structures and biological activities of molecules, carried out in the Molecular Spectrometry Laboratory and that could help in the study of diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Clinical analyses

The resources of the Infra Program also allowed the researcher Marina Franco Maggi Tavares to set up the Chromatography and Capillary ElectrophoresisLaboratory (Lace in the Portuguese acronym ), just two years ago. Since then, its team has been working on the development of new methods of clinical analysis, such as that of hemoglobin glycade, which permits the evaluation, for a period of two to three months, of the treatment of a diabetic. In the food research line, their analyses are using capillary electrophoresis to propose new techniques for the analysis of milk, chocolate products and cereals.

One of the areas of major investment in the laboratory is that of the development of methods for the analysis of compounds, phyto-therapeutic products and cosmetics, to attend to the necessity of the monitoring and standardization of the Sanitary Inspection. “The excellent working conditions at the Lace have permitted that, during the first semester of 2001, it was the only laboratory to be considered suitable by the Technology Institute in Pharmaceutical Drugs of the Ministry of Health to analyze impurities in generic medicines for Aids, freely distributed at State health clinics”, she says.

At the Natural Chemical Products Laboratory the necessity of having aseptic rooms free of viruses and bacteria was fundamental for the research with vegetal tissue cultures. “Before the reforms we couldn't carry out our work adequately nor integrate into programs such as the Biota-FAPESP”, Paulo Moreno explains. Now it is possible to carry out research on the identification of plants and the isolation of chemical substances of interest such as taxol, quinine, etc. These lines of research are important since 25% of all existing medicines on the market are made from plants or their derivatives that show bioactivity.