Today, inspired by the “Choose to Challenge” International Women’s Day theme, we share with you how women are transforming science, specifically in oncology. And we do it through the story of our CEO and co-founder, María de la Fuente Freire.
María’s career, from its beginnings to now
Dr. María de la Fuente Freire got a degree and a PhD in Pharmacy from the University of Santiago de Compostela. She completed her predoctoral and postdoctoral training at different national and international research centers. She has published many highly ranked articles in top peer-reviewed scientific journals.
In 2011 she returned to Galicia with a contract financed by the Scientific Foundation of the Spanish Association Against Cancer and, in 2013, she established her own laboratory at the Hospital Clínico Universitario de Santiago de Compostela.
She currently runs a research group and leads DIVERSA, a spin-off whose mission and vision are to promote the transfer of new therapeutic molecules to the clinic using safe-by-design delivery systems and to improve the lives of patients.
The goal is clear: to advance the development of new, more effective, and safe innovative therapies, in line with the concept of personalized medicine.
“I dedicate myself to research and what I am looking for is to be able to contribute to the development of innovative medicines that allow us to solve current medical problems. I have modulated my career as I discovered my motivations and what really generated value for me”.
The great challenge: treating cancer
Cancer research is a well-funded field, yet much remains unknown about the disease and its treatments. Pharmaceutical nanotechnology, which manipulates materials on a very small scale to improve the properties of active therapeutics, shows promising results against cancer.
“As we gain a better understanding of nanomaterial properties, new applications may emerge to further improve cancer research and treatment”.
One promising application of nanotechnology is using nanoparticles to selectively deliver drugs to cancer cells without harming healthy ones, potentially increasing the effectiveness of treatments while reducing side effects. Also, to incorporate the use of labile biomolecules that are more specific and can lead to more selective treatments but need a delivery strategy to overcome biological barriers and reach their target.
Regarding the types of cancer that benefit from this technology, in this article from Fundación “la Caixa” María clarifies that DIVERSA develops technologies thinking about molecules, not about specific types of cancer: “Until now, we have optimized nanosystems for the association and release of different types of therapeutic molecules, from small drugs to proteins and mRNA. The next phase is to optimize the technology for each specific case”.
Let her be the one to tell you about our work against cancer!
In the fight for equality
María, in addition to being a great scientist, has proven to be a woman committed to the fight for equality in the field of research. In her case, due to her maternity leave, she lost competitiveness, which is why she began to claim women’s right to motherhood, and together with scientific associations and other compromised women, changes in specific calls were made and new laws were approved to ensure equality for women scientists.
However, this is not the only reason for inequality: the lack of female role models in leadership positions also contributes.
Recently, list of 15 Galician scientists who are changing the world has been published. And María, backed by numerous publications and patents, is among them.
It is a fact that women have made and will make valuable contributions to science, but they keep facing obstacles. Efforts to increase representation and support for women in STEM fields will lead to a future of greater gender diversity and scientific innovation.
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