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Letter from the editor | 135

The rich rewards of research

The news appeared as far back as the first half of April: 14 juvenile diabetes patients underwent an aggressive combination of chemotherapy and transplant of stem cells previously removed from their own bone marrow.  They  have  now been free of their daily insulin injections for months. This means that a bold experiment conducted in Brazil on a pioneering basis, has controlled, to a surprising degree, a disease which   has always been a great burden for the afflicted youngsters. The word cure, of course, cannot yet be used in connection with the case. The experiment’s promising results were set out in detail in the April edition of JAMA, the highly regarded Journal of the American Medical Association.

Amidst the rejoicing this piece of news produced at FAPESP – after all, it was a fine result for the research efforts of the Cellular Therapy Center (CTC), one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers created in 2000 under FAPESP auspices and solidly supported by it – a doubt crept into the spirit of the team responsible for producing Pesquisa Fapesp: might the news be too old to be featured on the cover of its May edition?

I was sure that it would not be too old. For a publication based on  the bulletin of relevant news from the São Paulo State research support agency and established with an undeniable commitment to highlight the most significant results of Brazilian scientific production, so often disregarded and misunderstood, there was nothing, at this particular  time, that could overshadow the experience of the Ribeirão Preto team led by Júlio Voltarelli. No subject could possibly rival the theme of special editor Marcos Pivetta as Pesquisa FAPESP‘s May cover feature. New developments or the unprecedented nature of things, even in journalism, are not always the absolute criteria for  what deserves to be  the most important item in a publication.

However, it remains to be said that it was one of those unforeseeable coincidences that a Cepid product became the journal’s cover story at the same time as we were preparing a special supplement on the  dissemination of knowledge  carried out by these centers. Having been defined  several months previously, the supplement should have been published in the May issue. The article thus became a new sort of irrefutable proof or a reiteration of the fact that the Cepids are among the most effective institutional agents of a possibly still ill-perceived transformation currently under way in Brazil’s scientific and technological production.

Actually, at least two other articles in the scientific and technological policy section provide similar evidence . One of them is about Embrapa creating the first specific purpose firm (EPE – Empresa de Propósito Específico), which will allow this government-owned enterprise to establish associations with private partners for  research purposes. The other describes new models of association between firms and universities, as reported by FAPESP, to generate cutting-edge knowledge and its application in  social and economic  projects  linked to key fields such as information technology (IT). Both texts are by our policy editor, Claudia Izique.

Regarding technology, this edition highlights  the new strains of yeasts that may significantly reduce sugar and alcohol production costs by eliminating the centrifugation stage in the manufacturing process. The article is by Yuri Vasconcelos. Finally, an invitation to our readers to fearlessly enter the enchanted realm of boundless imagination: our humanities editor, Carlos Haag, provides academically-based clues about why Harry Potter has become an incredible phenomenon in the field of literature for children and young people.