For implementing the Millennium Development Goals and Rio + 20 Sustainable Development Goals, our world will need more than better governance and political goodwill. We need a more sustainable and high yielding agriculture, a more sustainable industry based not only on petroleum as raw material, but on agriculture and city waste and specialized "industrial" crops. We also need an affordable pharmaceutical industry, that can react efficiently and rapidly against the different emerging infectious agents. The ongoing population increase, undernourishment and urbanization result in extreme poverty and inequalities, enhancing social unrest and leading occasionally to instability and political uncertainty. All this raises the risk that evolving pathogens represent distinct epidemiological threats. How to cope with these challenges? What is needed for that?
Our present world can no longer function without an accelerated contribution of science and technology. In the life science sector, tremendous progress was made in the last 40 years: Successively gene cloning, manual and later automatized high performance sequencing of DNA and RNA, novel mass spectroscopy approaches for sequencing proteins and their modifications, identification of secondary metabolites and precursors of the biological macromolecules have generated a mind boggling amount of data, and through parallel advances in information technology and fast computing have helped to build a solid amount of novel fundamental knowledge.
To apply this knowledge and convince the financial and economic world to help develop the appropriate start-ups is the challenge of today’s biotechnology sector. Europe and now also the US have made solid political declarations that the future of our quality of life, including the environment, depends on the development of a performing "Bio-economy". But to be successful one will need a dynamic and innovative interaction between the established Bio-industries, active in the whole value chain of agriculture, forestry, fermentation, the pharmaceutical industry and the emerging pollution remediation industries with the research institutes and universities contributing to the fundamental life Sciences research. At present few governments have the capacity to stimulate the right interactions. An important exception is Brazil, and in particular for the agriculture and forestry related activities. EMBRAPA, established also nearly 40 years ago, is an example of how creative fundamental research can be well linked with field work in all aspects of agronomy, agriculture and husbandry. The close cooperation between breeders and molecular biologists, soil scientists and plant pathologists makes it a model for scale up and replication around the world. A more international presence of EMBRAPA can stimulate many countries to join the race for developing the necessary life sciences industries.
The career of Luiz Antonio Barreto de Castro also spans exactly these 4O years. During his studies and postdoc periods in California, he realized the power of gene cloning. He was able to convince EMBRAPA to join this research and he actively did so by becoming the first director of CENARGEN. Through his vision and initiatives, opportunities were created for new generation researchers who contributed to the development of Brazil’s biotechnology capacity.
It is therefore a great pleasure to congratulate him on the initiative to communicate his thoughts on the priorities for further biotechnology actions.
PROFESSOR MARC VAN MONTAGU
President European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB)
President Public Research Regulation Initiative
Institute for Plant Biotechnology Outreach – Flemish Inter University Institute Biotechnology (IPBO/VIB)
Efforts to develop Biotechnology in Brazil exceed three decades. Almost coincident with the advent of the recombinant DNA technology which became publically known early in the seventies when Herbert Boyer expressed the insulin gene in E.coli. A couple of scientists in Brazil repeated this experience almost at the same time and the interest for the area came to the agenda of a public company called EMBRAPA founded in the seventies to work with agricultural research in Brazil. The author built in EMBRAPA since 1980 a platform to develop plant genetic engineering training young scientists in areas such as plant cell and molecular biology to be able to incorporate this nascent technology to the plant breeding efforts of EMBRAPA. This work took place at CENARGEN –The National Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology the most prominent institution working in this area for the last three decades. The public perception in Brazil and many other countries was turned against this new technology for political reasons and when the first engineered soybean resistant to glyphosate was released commercially a campaign against transgenic plants prevented the application of this technology in agriculture for almost a decade in Brazil. The world however adopted recombinant DNA technology in the pharmaceutical area and most products utilized internationally by the public in this industry including Brazil are genetically engineered. Brazil tried to follow the growth of Biology commercially and introduced in consonance to TRIPS legislations to protect intellectually the applications of biology in genetics since the mid nineties. That was necessary but not sufficient. We had to deal with a rampant inflation for decades and had to train a number of scientists for the same time as well as investing institutionally in the area of Biotechnology. This E Book tells this story and is written now because apparently after Brazil became an emerging power financially it seems there are more opportunities now than before. So, this EBook is intended for those who want to know some of the history of Biotechnology in Brazil, since its inception, hopefully to conclude positively about the power of this technology and the opportunities we have in our hands now ,that were not in the context of this now called life science innovation area when we started these efforts at CENARGEN in 1980. Brazil may become a relevant actor in this area internationally taking advantage of some circumstances here that are not available in other countries , particularly our biodiversity. We make explicit indicators to support this thesis but the EBook describes adjustments that must be made to assure the success of our investments particularly to the laws – the regulatory framework , that are at the base of this crescent international market. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the Nature Biotechnology blog, Trade Secrets, which initially published several discussions found in this e-book. The collection of those original blog posts can be found here: http://blogs.nature.com/tradesecrets/author/lbarreto.
LUIZ ANTONIO BARRETO DE CASTRO
Member of the Brazilian Academy of Science.CEO of ABCP –Agriculture Biotechnology
SHIS QI 28 Conjunto 16 ,Chacara Dom BoscoLagoSul
List of Contributors
Luiz A.B. de Castro
Member of the Brazilian Academy of Science
CEO of ABCP –Agriculture Biotechnology