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Margarita Salas Falgueras, 1st Marchioness of Canero (30 November 1938 - 7 November 2019) was a Spanish scientist in the fields of biochemistry and molecular genetics. She was a feminist icon and an inspiration for generations of scientists.
Salas was born on 30 November 1938 in Canero, a parish of Valdés (Asturias), Spain, the daughter of a psychiatric doctor. She graduated in chemistry at the Complutense University of Madrid and obtained a PhD degree in 1963, with Alberto Sols [es] (CSIC) as supervisor. In 1963, she married Eladio Viñuela [es], and after finishing their Ph.D. theses, in August of the next year, they travelled to the United States to work with Severo Ochoa. On their return to Spain, Salas and her husband established a laboratory to research molecular biology at the Center for Biological Research in Madrid. Viñuela began a different field of research in 1970, studying the African plague virus, so that Salas would be recognised on her own merits. Salas was a professor of Molecular Genetics at the Complutense University Faculty of Chemistry from 1968 to 1992, professor of research at the Severo Ochoa Center for Molecular Biology from 1974, and its director from 1992 until January 1994, She was elected president of the Spanish Society of Biochemistry in 1988. She was also a director of the Foundation for Biomedical Research at the Gregorio Marañón Hospital (2001-2004), and of the Institute of Spain (1995-2003). She was responsible for promoting Spanish research in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology. She supervised more than 40 doctoral students, and published over 200 scientific articles. She was an honorary professor at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in the field of Biotechnology.
Salas and Viñuela had one daughter. She was reported as saying that she delayed motherhood until she was 37, when she felt that she could combine both professional and family life. She died on 7 November 2019 in Madrid at age 80.
Margarita Salas receiving the honoris causa honor by UNED
During her time in Ochoa's lab, Salas determined the directionality of genetic information reading. She also discovered and characterized the ?29 phage DNA polymerase, which has biotechnological applications due to its high DNA amplification properties. Her research allowed trace amounts of DNA to be replicated more quickly and reliably, making DNA analysis accessible in fields such as archaeology and forensics, where only trace amounts may be retrieved, and in oncology. The method is now called multiple displacement amplification.
Salas published more than 300 scientific articles and other works. She also has 8 patents, and presented papers at 398 conferences and seminars.:4 The patent relating to her discovery of ?29 generated more royalties for the Spanish National Research Council than any of its other patents, with 50% of its patent royalty income deriving from that one patent.
2009: Gold Medal of the College of Veterinarians of the Principality of Asturias.
2009: Title of Honorary Ambassador of the Spain Brand, category of Science and Innovation, which fails Leading Brands of Spanish Forum with the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.
2009: Women Leader Award 2009, awarded by the Rafael del Pino, Aliter and Merck Foundation.
2009: Award "An entire professional life" of the Mapfre Foundation.
2014: Chemistry Excellence Award, awarded by the General Council of Associations of Chemists of Spain.