Brazilian society has undergone vast changes in recent decades. Life expectancy is on the rise, with increases from age 56 in 1964 to age 75 in 2016, but so are rates of obesity and mental illness.
Three young investigators at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), in São Paulo, Brazil, are working to address the health challenges that accompany development and shifting demographics. Marcelo Mori is tackling ageing as it relates to metabolic diseases; Pedro Moraes-Vieira studies the links between the immune system and metabolism and obesity; and Daniel Martins-de-Souza is using proteomics to understand the mechanisms of psychiatric disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia. “We are looking for answers to questions that are particularly relevant to countries like Brazil, where sudden demographic changes are a ticking time bomb for the healthcare system,” Mori says.
All three researchers worked at top scientific institutions, such as Harvard Medical School, the University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute, and all returned to find greater opportunity at the Unicamp Institute of Biology. “Many of our colleagues are also young scientists with international experience,” Vieira says. As recipients of Young Investigator Awards by FAPESP — the major state funding agency in Brazil — the investigators could start to equip their own labs. Says Martins-de-Souza, “Because of funding opportunities like these, São Paulo is a major hub for state-of-the-art Brazilian science.”