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Latin America: Honoring a father, advancing Brazilian and Weizmann science

Date: Thursday, November 12, 2020
L to R: Former Weizmann President Prof. Daniel Zajfman with Vanessa Buchheim and Marcos Pinheiro de Andrade at last year’s Int’l Board

L to R: Former Weizmann President Prof. Daniel Zajfman with Vanessa Buchheim and Marcos Pinheiro de Andrade at last year’s Int’l Board

Sometimes, all it takes is one visit to get hooked on Weizmann science. That was the case with Marcos Pinheiro de Andrade and Vanessa Buchheim from Brazil, who came to campus in April 2019. Vanessa, who is Jewish, had been to Israel several times and said that over a decade, she encouraged her husband, who is not Jewish and had never been to Israel before, to make a visit.

The opportunity finally came when a family bat mitzvah was held in Israel, and the duo visited the Weizmann Institute as part of an organized tour. They came at the suggestion of their friend Bruno Licht, a Weizmann friend and generous supporter. Vanessa, a nutritional therapist with special interest in microbiome research, was eager to visit the campus.

“Israel, and Weizmann in particular, was such an impressive surprise for me,” says Marcos. “I like the Weizmann approach to science—basic research, but with an eye for application and for making discoveries, translate for the benefit of the world.”

On the day they were scheduled to depart, they got in a taxi for the airport and made a detour to the Weizmann Institute, to visit for a second time. While strolling on campus, they decided to make a gift to establish a postdoctoral fellowship for Brazilian scientists at Weizmann. “The idea came to us on the spot,” Marcos recalls. “I decided I wanted to honor my father, who is 83 and has Alzheimer’s, and who has always cared about education and research. And we wanted to help Weizmann in some way. We didn’t plan it at all, and it suddenly became a very emotional moment since my father’s illness has progressed substantially and this was a nice way for us to connect as a family.”

The two-year Paulo Pinheiro de Andrade Fellowship, named for Marcos’ father, was celebrated at last November’s International Board.

“We wanted to both support Weizmann science and Israeli science, and at the same time nourish Brazilian science—and bring Israel and Brazil a little closer together,” says Vanessa.

Marcos, whose career has been dedicated to finance and specifically asset management, says that they see the gift “as a fantastic investment with no risk, and with potentially huge returns. We hope to inspire others to give because the future relies on science and, as we see today, we can’t live without it.”

Paulo Pinheiro de Andrade is a former MBA professor and businessman who dedicated his career to market research. As a testament to his successful and influential role in his field, he was nominated as the Honorary President of the Global Business Research Network and granted the inaugural Jay Wilson Lifetime Achievement Award.

The first incumbent of the fellowship is Dr. Camila Pinto da Cunha, who will work in the lab of Prof. Yuval Eshed in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. She will study the internal factors of the plant that define how meristem tissue—the plant equivalent of stem cells, in the sense that it can differentiate into various tissue types within a plant—grows into all the elements of a flower. Understanding this process has implications for agriculture—for instance, knowing why a particular plant architecture produces more fruit—and the conservation of native species, especially in times of climate crisis.

The couple have three adult children whom they hope to bring to the Weizmann Institute when international travel resumes. As for Marcos, who admitted he initially needed some convincing to come to Israel, he says he plans to make Israel, and Weizmann, a “regular stop on my travels, and I hope to keep coming back.”