November 24, 2020

The scientist Margarita Salas dies – at 80

The great Asturian scientist Margarita Rooms, a benchmark of research in Spain and Europe and, in addition, one of the illustrious Asturians of the XX-XXI century, has died today in Madrid at age 80. He dies with his boots on, without ever wanting to retire of his research activity, receiving honorary awards and international awards, such as the one he was given only a few months ago in Vienna to his entire career for the European Patent Office. A fair recognition to the woman who achieved the most profitable patent in the history of the CSIC. With the death of Margarita Salas, compared by some colleagues like the "Marie Curie"national, research in Spain is somewhat more orphaned and Asturias loses one of the women who served as a guide for the younger generations. The burning chapel will be installed in the La Paz funeral home, in the town of Tres Cantos.

The research work of Margarita Rooms began in 1961 with the completion of his Doctoral Thesis under the direction of Prof. Alberto Sols on the metabolism of carbohydrates. During that first stage, Dr. Salas obtained results of great interest among which the discovery, together with Dr. Eladio Viñuela (her husband, whom she married in 1963), of the specific glucokinase for glucose phosphorylation was highlighted. in rat liver, insulin dependent. Subsequently, in the New York University, conducted postdoctoral research for three years under the direction of Prof. Severe Ochoa. In these years he carried out works of great importance on the mechanisms of translation of the genetic message, discovering the direction of reading of the genetic message and two proteins that are required for the initiation of protein synthesis. Both discoveries are found in the most prestigious textbooks of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Upon his return to Spain and after joining the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC), created a research group dedicated to the study of bacteriophage ø29, which has maintained extraordinary levels of quality and production from the beginning to the present. In this field of research he has made decisive scientific contributions on the replication mechanisms of genetic material. His discovery that the genome of bacteriophage ø29 has a terminal protein covalently bound to its ends that acts as a replication initiator, and subsequent confirmation by other research groups that it is a general mechanism that occurs in many viruses, It has meant the opening of a whole field of research in molecular genetics. Therefore, the work done by Dr. Salas during the last years as a pioneer and seminal in the DNA replication field, being many of his articles of great originality and transcendence for the detailed knowledge of new mechanisms of DNA replication. These discoveries also appear in textbooks such as "DNA Replication" by Arthur Kornberg.

Dr. Salas' research has been funded, not only by the General Directorate of Scientific and Technical Research and by the European Union, but also by the prestigious "National Institutes of Health" of the United States continuously for 24 years.

In addition to the important research work of Dr. Salas, it is also worth mentioning her dedication to the training of new scientists, many of whom have established their own research groups that already have a deserved scientific recognition in their work areas, both nationally and internationally, as well as the extraordinary commitment and dedication of Dr. Salas to the development of the Molecular Biology Center "Severe Ochoa" (Joint Center of the CSIC and the UAM), of which she has been Director in the years 1992-93.

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