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Saturday, March 6, 2010

National Scientist Lourdes J. Cruz — 2010 L’Oréal-UNESCO Awardee in the Life Sciences

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and L’Oréal, a cosmetic giant, joined forces 12 years ago to support the cause of women in science and stressed the world’s need for science more than ever in the face of the current economic crisis. On 15 October 2009, UNESCO and L’Oréal announced the names of five exceptional women scientists who were chosen to receive the 2010 L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards in the Life Sciences. The jury composed of 18 eminent members of the scientific community was headed by the 1999 recipient of the Nobel Prize in medicine, Gunter Blobel.

Out of more than a thousand nominees worldwide, the Philippine candidate, Lourdes J. Cruz, Ph.D. was one of the five women scientists chosen to receive the award. National Scientist Lourdes J. Cruz is being honored for the discovery and elucidation of the biochemical and molecular nature of marine snail toxins that have been found to assist in the study of brain function.

Dr. Cruz finished her BS Chemistry at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1962, and her MS and PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Iowa, USA in 1966 and 1968, respectively.

She started her career as research aide in 1962 at the International Rice Research Institute, where she returned after obtaining her PhD. She taught as assistant professor at the UP Department of Biochemistry in 1970 and became full professor in 1977.

From 1980 to 1986, Dr. Cruz served as chairperson of UP Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. For over 20 years, she also spent one to six months every year as research associate [1976-1986] and as research professor from 1987 to 2004 in University of Utah. She currently does research on neuroactive peptides and other marine toxins at the UP Marine Science Institute.

As a pioneer of Conus venom research, Dr. Cruz has greatly contributed to the isolation and characterization of Conus peptides (conopeptides). The work was started more than three decades ago at the University of the Philippines Manila in collaboration with Dr. Baldomero M. Olivera of the University of Utah. Aside from her studies on conopeptides, Dr. Cruz has been engaged in other researches, such as paralytic shellfish toxins and anti-TB compounds from marine organisms. Her team is currently involved in the development and adaptation of assays for marine toxins in the Philippines particularly the paralytic shellfish toxins, which are responsible for the highly negative impact of toxic algal blooms on the lives and livelihood of many Filipinos. She conceptualized and established the Rural Livelihood Incubator (Rural LINC) in 2001 with the help of volunteers and seed fund from private donor. One of the aims of Rural LINC is to generate employment opportunities and establish sustainable means of livelihood as long-term solutions to poverty and socio-political instability in rural areas.

Dr. Cruz has authored over 130 scientific publications with students, collaborators and staff. In 1981, she was one of recipients of Outstanding Young Scientist award from the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines, and elected to the Academy in 1986. She is the first OYS awardee to become a National Scientist. In 1993, she received the fourth Sven Brohult Award given by the International Foundation for Science (IFS) every three years to an outstanding IFS grantee. So far, she is the only Filipino Sven Brohult Awardee. In 2001, Dr. Cruz became the second Filipino to receive the ASEAN Outstanding Scientist and Technologist Award.

For her remarkable achievements that are beneficial to the country and the world, and to the cause of women, National Scientist Lourdes J. Cruz truly deserves to be the 1st Filipina to receive a L’Oréal – UNESCO Award for Women in Science. The awards ceremony will take place on 04 March 2010 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, with each of the five laureates receiving a $100,000 prize for their contributions to scientific advancement in the field of Life Sciences.

from : http://www.nast.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=162:2010-loreal-unesco-awardee-in-the-life-sciences&catid=1:news

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