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University of Alicante celebrates St. Thomas Aquinas awarding an honorary degree to María Blasco


Alicante. Tuesday, 24 January 2017

On 27 January, the University of Alicante will hold St. Thomas Aquinas celebrations including the award of an honorary degree to biologist María Blasco. She will be the eleventh woman who joins the prestigious honorary faculty of this institution after 37 years from its creation.

The ceremony will begin with the inauguration ceremony, followed by the presentation of undergraduate, Master's and PhD special awards, as well as the Spanish National Award for Excellent Academic Performance in the academic year 2011-12.

The ceremony will be held at 12 midday in the Auditorium, presided over by the UA President. Vice president for Research and Knowledge Transfer Amparo Navarro will deliver the laudatio by which she claimed for the concession of the highest honorary degree.

The ceremony can be followed live on the Internet.



María Antonia Blasco Marhuenda is currently the director of the Spanish Cancer Research Centre, where she also heads the Telomeres and Telomerase Group.

Born in Alicante in 1965, she completed her PhD thesis on viral DNA polymerases at the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Centre (CSIC-UAM, Madrid), under the supervision of Margarita Salas, being awarded a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1993 by the Autonomous University of Madrid. Later that same year, she was granted a fellowship to join the laboratory of Carol W. Greider (who in 2009 would receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology) in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA).

She returned to Spain in 1997 to establish herself as the Group Leader in the Spanish Biotechnology Centre (CSIC, Madrid). In 2003, she moved to the Spanish Cancer Research Centre (CNIO, Madrid) as the Head of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group and Director of the Molecular Oncology Programme. Maria A. served as Deputy Director of Basic Research of this centre from 2005 to June 2011, when she gained her current position as the Director of CNIO.

Pioneering research developed by Maria A. Blasco has established the fundamental role that telomeres and telomerase play in cancer and ageing processes. Her research work has provided proof of principle that telomeric shortening caused by deficiency on telomerase enzyme in the adult organism is one of the major molecular pathways leading to ageing and age-related pathologies, establishing telomere length and telomerase activity as one of the molecular marks of ageing. The findings reveal that the reactivation of telomerase is enough to delay the ageing process and associated diseases, as well as to increase longevity. Up to date, she has contributed 243 articles, totalling 22,931 (an average of 104 citations per article). Her h-index is 76. Her research work has also resulted in several international patents and the creation of a CNIO spin-off biotech company (Life Length SL, which operates in more than 30 countries providing telomere length analysis for biomedical  use.  

Her work has been recognised with several awards and distinctions. She has been presented with the Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award (Switzerland), the EMBO Gold Medal, the European Körber Science Award (Germany), the Carmen and Severo Ochoa Prize in Molecular Biology, the Rey Jaime I Prize for Basic Research, the Alberto Sols Award for the best research work in Health Sciences, the 2010 Lilly Foundation Preclinical Research Award and the 2010 Santiago Ramón y Cajal National Award for Research in Biology. Maria A. Blasco is an elected member of EMBO, in whose advisory board she served from 2008 to 2011, and of the European Academy, and correspondent academic member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Pharmacy. She was awarded with a honorary degree by the Carlos III University  of Madrid in 2014.

She is currently a member of several national and international advisory boards.  Among them, the Scientific Committee of Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 (IMI2) Joint Undertaking (EU), External Scientific Committee of the Health and Biomedical Research Institute Alicante-ISABIAL, Scientific Advisory Council of the Institute of Neurosciences-IN, Scientific Advisory Council of Institut Universitaire du Cancer de Toulouse-IUCT (Toulouse, France), Scientific Advisory Council of  Max Plank Institute for Biology of Ageing (Cologne, Germany),  Scientific Advisory Council of Vall d’Hebron Research Institute-VHIR (Barcelona),  Scientific Advisory Council of  the Fundación Príncipes de Girona,  Scientific Advisory Council of Champalimaud Foundation (Lisbon, Portugal),  Scientific Advisory Council of AXA Research Fund (Paris, France). She was a member of the Board of the Spanish Centre for Research on Ageing (CNIE) and of the Governing Council of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences.


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