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Letter from the editor | 82

Select club

It was a difficult year. Lower tax revenues, higher dollar, doubts regarding the steering of the economy over the following year and an unpredictable international scenario. Amid of all of this, our researchers kept on working. And there are things to celebrate. The cover of this issue is proof that Brazilian science and technology continues advancing. Two small national companies, Hormogen Biotecnologia and Genosys Biotecnologia, have separately been developing the first doses of human growth hormone (hGH). Brazil imports around one million doses per year, at a cost of some US$ 15 million. During 2003 this scenario is about to change- thanks to the partnerships agreed to by these companies with laboratories that are also national, the country will enter into the select club of the nations that export medicine. Today only Sweden, Denmark, the United States and Italy master the genetic engineering technique that produces this hormone.

There are other examples of promising technological innovation in other areas. Pesquisa FAPESP has highlighted the majority of them, which began to be thought about when still on the laboratory benches and have come a long way to arriving at the market. A number of them received financing through FAPESP’s Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) program, which continues to support various similar initiatives. This is an unquestionable indicator that more good news will come up in a short period of time.

Also in the medium term, all those who work in biology will receive good news. The final adjustments are being made to a piece of software that will permit the integration of data banks with detailed information about plant, animal and microorganism species in the state of São Paulo. The idea is to expand this network so as it can be integrated into a future worldwide network that deals with the theme that is being covered, so that we shall have a type of catalogue of all life on Earth, accessible through the Internet. The project is ambitious and it is as yet necessary to establish a network equal to that of São Paulo for all of Brazil. The end of this work is still very distant, but the São Paulo part is taking large steps forward.

Another piece of work that is doing well and in which it is already possible to note results, deals with obesity and diabetes. A team from the Biomedical Sciences Institute of the University of São Paulo has revealed that the wide variations in the level of a transporting protein of glucose, named Glut 4, in certain tissues, appears to be the determining factor for the occurrence of two problems. The discovery could hold the key to the avoidance of fat accumulation and of diabetes of type 2. For this to happen, it will be necessary to create a way of reducing the production of Glut 4. The path is open, but there is a lot to clear away.

In Humanities also there is a lot to discover. The communication experts are looking to know what is the real status in the area of communication. The science of studying the media? Is it really a science at all? And if it is, what place does it occupy in human sciences? Why do the specialists in this area appear to be so distant from the object that they are studying? The debate is international, though in Brazil it is reaching institutional levels and policies since it involves development agencies such as the Coordination of Personnel Training at Tertiary Level (Capes).

A year with these new details, advances and debates in science and technology cannot be considered to be lost for this sector. The interview with the philosopher from Rio de Janiero Leandro Konder, author of the recently published book Questão de Ideologia [A Question of Ideology], gives us more hope of better times to come. In it, he restates his belief in Marxism – but stripped of the doctrinal character, which imprisons, generates attacks and creates difficulties of openness towards things new – and speaks of ideology, religion, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and of his love of lecturing to undergraduate students. Through all of these themes he moves with knowledge and peacefulness. A breath of 2003 to come.

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