Cruz is 1st Filipino science laureate

Dr. Lourdes CruzMANILA – Dr. Lourdes Cruz, 67, a Filipino scientist, has been named one of five 2010 For Women in Science laureate by the France-based L’Oreal Foundation and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). She will be the first Filipino to be named science laureates by the foundation.

L’Oreal Foundation, the second-largest private philanthropic group in France, selected Cruz one of five 2010 Women in Science Laureates for their scientific contributions.

Cruz was chosen to represent the Asia Pacific REgion for her discovery of marine snail toxins that can serve as powerful tools to study brain function. Dr. Cruz who teaches at the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines Diliman, introduced the study of conotoxin or toxins from marine snails as a model for developing a drug that focuses ony on a specific vein or muscle of the human body.

According to the statement by L’oreal and the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), Cruz and the four laureates were selected at a meeting of a jury presided over by Prof. Gunter Blobel, Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in 1999.

Along with Cruz, the other laureates are Cairo University professor Rashika El Ridi (Africa and the Arab States); Pasteur Institute professor Anne Dejean-Assemat (Europe); Universidad Nacional Autonoma Institute of Molecular Microbiology professor Alejandra Bravo (Latin America); and The Rockefeller University (New York) Rebecca Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development professor Elaine Fuchs (North America).

El Ridi was selected for paving the way toward the development of a vaccine against the tropical disease schistomiasis/bilharzia. France’s Dejean-Assemat is recognized for her contributions to the understanding of leukemia and liver cancers. Mexico’s Bravo is honored for her work on a bacterial toxin that acts as a powerful insecticide. Finally, Fuchs of New York “was selected for her contributions to our knowledge of skin biology and skin stem cells.”

The awards ceremony honoring the laureates will take place in March next year at the Unesco headquarters in Paris, the statement said.

Like the other laureates, Cruz will receive $100,000 (P4.6 million) “in recognition of their contribution to the advancement of science.”

Since 1998, the For Women in Science program has recognized 62 laureates, 150 international fellows and 700 national fellows, the statement said.

Dr. Cruz has published over one hundred and twenty papers in her field of study. Her degrees include B.S. Chemistry, University of the Philippines, 1962; M.S. Biochemistry, University of Iowa, 1966 and Ph.D. Biochemistry, University of Iowa, 1968.

Her awards: NAST Outstanding Young Scientist Award 1981; NRCP Achievement Award in Chemistry 1982; Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service Award (Biochemistry) 1986 and Philippine National Scientist 2008, the highest award given by the Philippine government.

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