We are aware that our company exists thanks to hundreds of people who have worked and developed the field of genetics for years. People of all nationalities and backgrounds who found in DNA a challenge to unravel.
In respect to these individuals, and in this tribute to women in particular, we have decided to make a small compilation.
From tellmeGen, on this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we want to pay our small tribute to Margarita Salas, a Spanish scientist and disciple of Severo Ochoa, Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Physiology in 1959.
She passed away on November 7, 2019.
A biochemist by training, she is known for her discovery and characterization of the DNA polymerase of the bacteriophage phi29 (Φ29), which represented a significant advancement in the field of molecular biology.
She also played a part in determining that the reading of genetic material is done in the 5′ to 3′ direction. This is the direction of synthesis followed by polymerases in DNA to produce messenger RNA.
Furthermore, she described how protein synthesis begins.
Her studies were crucial for Kary Banks Mullis, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1993, together with Michael Smith, to design the well-known PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), a technique that, among other uses, allowed for the diagnosis and control of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
In Spain, she is considered one of the main promoters of studies in biochemistry and the principal developer of molecular biology in the country.
The patent developed from her discovery of the Φ29 phage has been the most economically profitable in the entire history of the Spanish National Research Council.
Interestingly, she was the first female scientist to belong to the Royal Spanish Academy, an institution that regulates the Spanish language and its linguistic standards.
Another tribute from tellmeGen is to Mary Lyon, a British geneticist who theorized the process of lyonization, the inactivation of a female X chromosome. She passed away on December 25, 2014, at the age of 89.
Interested in embryology, she began her PhD in the department of genetics with Ronald Fisher, one of the founders of Neo-Darwinism.
She completed it in the group of Conrad Hal Waddington, another heavyweight in various branches of biology, including genetics and embryology. After her thesis, she remained in this group.
Focusing on mutations in mice, she analyzed a mutation with an interesting effect: males either died or survived with white fur, while females always survived but with multi-coloured fur.
Through specific and calculated breeding, she concluded that the mutation was located on the X chromosome. It was one of the bases for her hypothesis of X chromosome inactivation, a process that has been named lyonization in her honour.
The visualization of Barr bodies in the 1940s by Canadian researchers was strong support for the theory.
By the 1970s, it was accepted by the vast majority of the community.
Although that was her most significant discovery, throughout her career she participated in many other works related to genetic mutations and sex chromosomes.
Many of her studies deal with mutagenesis, both chemical and radiation-induced. She received several awards in the field of genetics for her discoveries.
It’s fitting that it was a woman who discovered the secrets of the X chromosome.
Women in science have often been overshadowed by their male counterparts and by the mindset of the past. With this, we aim to contribute to putting them in the place they deserve.