Biography of María Blasco, one of the leading Spanish scientists. She is the director of the National Oncology Research Center of Spain.
She actively worries that science related to cancer and aging will come to everyone’s knowledge.
Early years and training of this remarkable scientist
María Blasco Marhuenda was born in 1965, in Alicante.
In 1988, she graduated in Biological Sciences from the Autonomous University of Madrid.
She had the great luck of being a student of Margarita Salas.
Enthusiastic about what she had learned in the university and with the perspectives that were presented to her, she decided to study to obtain a doctorate.
For this reason, she worked under the direction of Margarita Salas. She did it at the “Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center”.
This Center is dependent on the Autonomous University of Madrid and also on the Higher Center for Scientific Research (CSIC).
Five years later, in 1993, María Blasco received a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Autonomous University of Madrid.
To do this, she defended an excellent thesis in which she made her first important scientific contributions.
At the same time, she demonstrated that she was an expert in the process of DNA replication.
First steps of María Blasco abroad
In order to improve, and like many researchers, María Blasco decided to move to the United States.
Her goal was to open horizons and be in touch with the most advanced science.
María Blasco had excellent grades obtained at the University of Madrid. She was a bright young Spanish biologist.
In addition, she had the guarantee of having grown professionally under the tutelage of Margarita Salas and Severo Ochoa. These two Spanish scientists are two great international figures.
Due to her interest in the molecular mechanisms that regulate the functioning of chromosomes, María Blasco applied for and obtained a postdoctoral fellowship.
She got it in the laboratory “Cold Spring Harbor” of Dr. Carol Greider.
There she joined a group that was working on the frontier of biochemistry knowledge.
María Blasco worked in this prestigious laboratory, with Carol Greider, from 1993 to 1997.
Carolyn Greider was born in 1961 in San Diego, California. She received the Albert Lasker Prize for Basic Medical Research in biochemistry.
She won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering an enzyme related to DNA duplication.
The Cold Spring Harbor laboratory is a scientific research institution located in a town near New York.
She specializes in the study of cancer, neurobiology, plant genetics, genomics and bioinformatics.
Nine scientists who worked in this laboratory won the Nobel Prize.
The main objective of Dr. María Blasco in this American laboratory was to investigate the telemerers.
Telomeres are structures that protect the genetic material. They play a fundamental role in the process of cell aging.
These structures are located at the ends of the chromosomes. And they are essential for the stability of the genome and for the life of the cells.
First triumphs of this remarkable Spanish scientist
The remarkable creativity and great work capacity of the young María Blasco soon placed her in the forefront of the investigation.
Already at that time, in 1995, the journal Science published an article. It was dedicated to the enzyme called telomerase.
In 1997, María Blasco published a sensational article in the journal Cell.
She made known to the scientific world the importance of telomerase in maintaining stable cell division.
The results of her research on telomerase showed that the role played by this enzyme was closely associated with cancer control and aging.
Without a doubt this was one of the most fantastic moments of her professional experience.
She, Maria Blasco, had shown that telomerase was essential for maintaining telomeres in mammals.
Until that moment it was ignored that these elements had to do so decisively with cancer and aging.
Job offers for this extraordinary woman
María Blasco received several attractive offers to work in the USA. However, she decided to take on the challenge of creating her own research team in Spain.
In 1997, María Blasco left the Cold Spring Harbor laboratory and returned to Madrid.
Once in Spain, she began her research stage as a scientist.
She was appointed group leader in the “Department of Immunology and Oncology”, belonging to the National Center for Biotechnology, of the CSIC.
Her work at the CNIO
In 2003, she joined the “National Cancer Research Center” (CNIO), then under the direction of Dr. Mariano Barbacid.
María Blasco was appointed head of the “Telomeres and Telomerase Group” of the CNIO,
In addition, she assumed the position of director of the “Molecular Oncology Program”. This outstanding scientist, managed to balance the rigorous research work with excellent management.
In June 2011, she was appointed director of the CNIO, replacing Mariano Barbacid.
The important team of highly qualified professionals of the CNIO has helped to consolidate the hypothesis of the impact of telomeres and telomerase on health and aging.
About 500 people work at the CNIO. It is among the best in the world, in all classifications of quality and prestige.
The CNIO received the “Severo Ochoa Award”. This award proves that the CNIO is a Center of Excellence.
This accreditation is associated with an economic endowment of one million euros.
The CNIO produces research of great value, which is no stranger to the tireless work of its director.
María Blasco’s personal life
María Blasco, is married to the scientist Manuel Serrano Marugán and they have a son.
In September 2010, María Blasco was one of the founders of the biotechnology company “Life Length”.
For commercially exploiting, under a license granted by the CNIO, the technology that allows to know the length of telomeres and the forecast of cell division; and, therefore, the individual life expectancy, according to these variables.
Life Length is a leading company in the biotechnology industry. It works to improve the health and lifestyle of people around the world.
After many years of work, Life Lengh has positioned its technology at the forefront of the field of telomere measurement and diagnosis.
Objectives proposed by María Blasco
There are three objectives that are appreciated fulfilled in the professional life of Dr. Blasco:
- a) Investigate the causes of cell aging, the cause of cancer and diseases.
- b) Disseminate this knowledge of basic science and apply it in the cure of cancer.
- c) Fight to ensure that women have the right to equal professional opportunities.
The first of the stated objectives has been masterfully achieved through her work.
Those performed at the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center, in the “Cold Spring Harbor” laboratory of Dr. Carol Greider.
Also in the “Department of Immunology and Oncology”; and in the “National Cancer Research Center”, the CNIO.
The second objective has been reflected in the books she has published in recent years.
Dissemination of her activities and knowledge
In addition, María Blasco is the author of more than 200 original research articles.
In them she made highly valued fundamental contributions.
She published them in the most prestigious journals of her specialty, such as “Cell”, “Nature”, “Nature Genetics”, “Nature Cell Biology” and “Science”.
María Blasco was set as one of her tasks, to get society to know what is being done at the CNIO.
Accepted gladly interviews in the media.
The application of the results in basic research is carried out by the biotechnology company “Life Lenght“.
The third objective has been permanently in the life of María Blasco.
She has always shown a deep interest in the recognition of women in science.
In addition, she has often been involved in the fight for equality. One of the most recognized Spanish scientists for her help to children suffering from tetraplegia is Dr. Elena García Armada.
Distinctions that María Blasco has received
The importance of María Blasco’s work is clearly reflected in the quantity and category of the awards and appointments she has received throughout her career.
In 2014, she was selected by the Quo magazine, in collaboration with the Higher Council for Scientific Research and the Higher Sports Council, for the first “Spanish National Science Team”. This Council is composed of thirteen leading Spanish scientists internationally.