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Margarita Salas and the fight against COVID-19

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From tellmeGen, on this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we want to pay our small tribute to Margarita Salas, Spanish scientist and disciple of Severo Ochoa, Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1959.

A biochemist by training, she is mainly known for the discovery and characterization of the DNA polymerase of bacteriophage phi29, which was a breakthrough in the field of molecular biology, also becoming the most profitable patent in Spanish science.

margarita salas y la covid-19

Her studies were decisive for Kary Banks Mullis, Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993, together with Michael Smith, to design the well-known PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), a technique that is currently allowing the diagnosis and control of COVID-19.

Margarita Salas passed away at the end of 2019, so she has not been able to experience firsthand the important implications of her studies in the fight against COVID-19. Since 2020, several projects using phage phi29 DNA polymerase have been ongoing, focused on improving the technology to enable the detection and study of:

  • Asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, one of the most limiting factors for all countries in the world in the fight against the virus.
  • Detect SARS-CoV-2 positive cases quickly and without relying, as far as possible, on the use of customized equipment or specialized technical personnel.

dia de la mujer y niña en la ciencia

According to the scientists involved in these projects, isothermal amplification technology based on this enzyme could substantially improve the capabilities, reliability, time and simplicity of SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection in laboratories around the world.

Thanks to Margarita Salas, and her rigor and commitment to scientific research, we are one day closer to controlling the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.