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Solutions from science

Event discusses paths for overcoming challenges in the fields of health, energy and the environment

São Paulo symposium discussed potential applications of science to fields deemed strategic

Eduardo CesarSão Paulo symposium discussed potential applications of science to fields deemed strategicEduardo Cesar

Researchers and representatives of public institutions and companies gathered at the Brazilian British Center in São Paulo for a marathon session of panels regarding the role of science in facing challenges in fields such as health, energy and the environment.  Held December 2, 2015, the “Paths of Science and Development” symposium discussed potential applications of science.  “In times of widespread crisis of confidence like the one we currently face, it’s important to turn our attention to science in search of solutions,” said Adriana Brondani, director of the Council for Information on Biotechnology (CIB), one of the event’s hosts.  Organized by the Elabora BioSolutions consulting firm, the symposium also received support from FAPESP, Pesquisa FAPESP magazine and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

The first panel discussed scientific knowledge and development and included contributions from José Fernando Perez, president of Recepta Biopharma, a biotechnology company that focuses on potential cancer-fighting compounds, and Ladislau Martin Neto, director of R&D at Embrapa – the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation.  Perez highlighted the importance of interactions between universities and companies.  “It is through innovation that companies seek partnerships with a variety of universities and research institutes.  This type of collaboration is needed so that these organizations can fulfill their role in society and generate new knowledge,” he said.  Martin Neto underscored the role of agribusiness within this context.  “It is a strategic and competitive sector that requires automation in order to reduce costs and increase productivity,” he noted.

Invited to serve as moderator for this panel, FAPESP Scientific Director Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz noted that it is becoming increasingly common for scientists employed by companies to be engaged in conducting high impact research.  According to him, the scenario has become more common in Brazil over the past two decades although the change has not diminished the role of the university.  “There are different places in society in which advances are promoted to benefit the people.  There are still many scientists who are making major discoveries at universities.  At the same time, research activities are also being conducted in the private sector,” he stressed.

Another panel focused on the role of science in overcoming challenges related to the environment and quality of life.  Andrew Simpson, a British biochemist who lives in Brazil, talked about advances in research at the Brazilian pharmaceutical firm Orygen on vaccines for fighting cancer.  “We have a partnership with the Ludwig Institute as well as with research groups  in Germany.  Now we are looking for partnerships with hospitals in Brazil to begin clinical trials,” Simpson said.  In the field of genetics, Pamela Ronald, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, described some projects that have resulted in benefits for food production.  She collaborated on studies that have led to a variety of flood-resistant transgenic rice, with triple the yield of normal rice.  “The consensus of science is that these foods are safe.  Use of certain genetically modified seeds has been able to greatly reduce the need for pesticides in the field,” she explained.

Economist Henrique Pacini, a representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) pointed to the importance of science in the field of renewable energy.  “The greatest challenge of this sector is broadening access to modern energy.  One strategy is by expanding the use of ethanol.  This calls for countries to adopt incentive policies for biofuel production,” he said.