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[BUENOS AIRES] Argentina has received a US$20 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to revive scientific areas affected by the country's severe economic crisis.

The loan will provide new equipment and training for scientists and others working in Argentinean universities in the fields of biotechnology, genomics, agroindustry, the protection of genetic resources and environmental management.

The three-year programme will be managed by the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), following an agreement with the Department of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation. The first round of applications for funding will begin in June.

"With the loan, we will try to solve Argentina's agricultural and industrial problems and consolidate strategic partnerships with other scientific organisations and the private sector," says INTA president Carlos Alberto Vuegen.

In recent years, scientists from INTA and other Argentinean research institutes have been severely affected by the country's economic crisis. Many have had insufficient funds to continue their work, and some research projects have been delayed or stopped altogether.

For example, an INTA project to develop transgenic alfalfa — which has the potential to be used as an edible vaccine for foot and mouth disease — was cut short last year due to lack of funds.

"The crisis affected us profoundly," says Andrés Wigdorovitz, a scientist who worked on the project. "We had to adapt and use cheaper techniques. As a consequence, we have been advancing slowly."

Other scientists have only managed to make progress by obtaining grants from abroad or from private companies. "INTA's equipment was bought using other loans but it is already obsolete. And some of our young researchers have chosen to go abroad because of the low levels of pay here," says Esteban Hopp, who researches plant biotechnology. "This new loan will very useful to continue our activities."

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