Margarita Salas gave her DNA amplification system to the CSIC, generating more than six million euros for Spanish science
With the death of Margarita Salas, one of the most important women in Spanish science of the 20th century leaves. At 80 years old, Salas' life is full of stories, ideas and anecdotes: from his flight to New York in '64 to work with Severo Ochoa himself, upon entering the Royal Spanish Academy with a speech on Genetics and language.
But perhaps the history of his great patent gives us a more current idea of his role in the development of the great queen of contemporary science: genetics. Salas discovered a technique capable of easily multiplying DNA from scarce samples, thereby helping to revolutionize numerous fields ranging from precision medicine to archeology. And, in addition, he patented it in the name of the CSIC "giving him" in six years more than six million euros to the largest Spanish research center.
The genetic revolution started in Spain (several times)
Biological Research Center
As I was saying, Salas left the country in '64 to work in New York, but his ticket was round trip. He returned to work at the Center for Biological Research, where, thanks to various North American collaborations, he began to investigate the molecular functioning of the phi29 virus.
Phi29 is a phage that is dedicated to infecting bacteria of the genus Bacillus. As is often the case with basic research, while Salas and his team worked with him, they realized that the replication mechanisms of the virus' genetic material were really interesting. From there, they focused on getting those characteristics to build a technique that would allow us to replicate DNA at will.
And, indeed, they succeeded. This, in the 1980s, was a tool dropped from the sky to start exploring the analysis of small samples collected at an archaeological site or at a crime scene. In 89, he patented his DNA amplification system in the US Years later, in 1997, he did it in Europe putting it in the name of the CSIC. The patent was only active for six years, but in that time it generated more than six million euros for the largest research center in the country.
This same year, the European Patent Office awarded him an award for his pioneering role in the development of the technologies on which the genetic revolution that we are experiencing today stands. A revolution in which, as Margarita Salas shows, Spanish science has been of enormous importance.