Margarita Salas, honorary academician elected of the Royal European Academy of Doctors-Barcelona 1914 (RAED), considered the great reference of the scientific women of Spain, died on November 7 in Madrid at 80 years after a lifetime dedicated to biogenetic research. Until now, Salas was still in charge of his laboratory at the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center, an organization founded in 1975 as a consortium between the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Autonomous University of Madrid under the initiative and tutelage of the Spanish Nobel prize in Medicine or Physiology Severo Ochoa. Doctor of Science since 1963, Salas was a disciple of Ochoa, with whom she worked in the United States, and actively participated in the development of this international reference research center.
The elected academician of honor also chaired the Severo Ochoa Foundation and directed the course of the School of Molecular Biology Eladio Viñuela annually, within the summer courses of the Menéndez Pelayo International University in Santander. She was a member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, the Spanish Royal Academy of Language, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the American Society of Microbiology and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among other international institutions of first level.
On June 20, she was recognized with the 2019 European Inventor Prize, awarded by the European Patent Office, in its Lifetime Achievement category. The jury praised her research in different lines of biochemistry and, in particular, his method of amplifying DNA and being able to study it more easily. The patent for this method, which uses the enzyme phi29 DNA polymerase, is the most profitable in the long history of the Higher Center for Scientific Research, the body that supported her research. Salas thus became the first Spanish scientist to achieve it. The renowned Asturian scientist also won the Popular Prize, awarded by open vote.
After her doctorate in 1963, Margarita Salas traveled to the United States with her husband, the molecular biologist Eladio Viñuela, to investigate with Severo Ochoa in the Department of the School of Medicine at the New York University. In 1967 they returned to Spain and founded the first molecular genetic research group in the country, at the CSIC. “Margarita Salas always vindicated the value of the search for knowledge. ‘The important thing is to do basic quality research, and from this you can find applicable results that are not foreseeable at first sight. And yet they come out and can be profitable’, she said”, recalls the full academician and president of the Spanish Society of Virology Albert Bosch.