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Letter from the editor | 234

Universities and companies

Interaction between universities and research institutes is an ongoing theme of several of this issue’s reports.  The idea that there is no such interaction or that such interaction is inadequate has long prevailed in discussions in Brazil, but the report about two recently published books that compare Brazil with other developing countries indicates that the formal relationships between research institutions and the private sector are increasing in number and growing stronger.  Brazil is still a long way from the levels of South Korea or China, but analysis of the findings presented contradicts the common belief that scientific research has little impact on the country’s economic development.  Furthermore, considering that the research reported does not include interactions such as consulting engagements and services provided by individual researchers, many of which are conducted through university foundations, the scenario is quite different from what we’ve been led to believe.

Two reports exemplify successful interactions that have taken place between the private sector and academia.  One way these interactions arise is when companies initiate them with universities and research institutions, as highlighted in the cover story, which describes companies that belong to the sizeable domestic small–aircraft industry and demonstrates how many such companies work with the aforementioned bodies to develop innovations for their products. Another report chronicles the first major success experienced by Brazilian biotechnology firm Recepta, which licensed its intellectual property to develop a cancer-fighting drug to a U.S. firm. Recepta is developing its products, monoclonal antibodies, in partnership with institutions such as the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research of New York, the School of Medicine at the University of São Paulo and the Butantan Institute, with the support of agencies like FAPESP, the Brazilian Innovation Agency (FINEP) and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).  An example of interaction in reverse, where a public institution seeks assistance through private sector investment in order to carry out a project is described in the report on the Sirius synchrotron light source. Working jointly with FAPESP and FINEP, the National Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS) selected eight companies to tackle 13 science and technology challenges related to the venture.

The process of overcoming obstacles—scientific, technical as well as political in nature—is revealed in a report about the performance of the New Horizons probe, which completed its mission to Pluto after a nine-year voyage.  The extensive news coverage of the mission’s success by international media does not give Pesquisa FAPESP a pass from describing the feat and discussing what we may now expect in terms of advancing knowledge about the far corners of our solar system on the basis of data transmitted by the New Horizons instruments.

The art of communicating science, or science journalism, which discusses and disseminates the findings of science and technology research and its creative processes, is the subject of a series of articles commemorating the 20th anniversary of the premier issue of the Notícias FAPESP Bulletin, a publication which, after 46 issues, became this magazine.  The first report presents a profile of two pioneers in the field:  Júlio Abramczyk and José Hamilton Ribeiro.  To the researchers whose work is the foundation for our very livelihood, and to the readers of Pesquisa FAPESP, go our special thanks.