award to researcher Nerea Méndez

Victoria del Pozo, Deputy Scientific Director of the Institute for Health Research of the Jiménez Díaz Foundation (IIS-FJD); and Nerea Méndez Barbero, researcher at the center.

Nerea Mendez BarberoPrincipal Investigator of the Miguel Servet Program -Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII, Ministry of Science and Innovation)- of the Vascular Pathology Laboratory of the Health Research Institute of the Jiménez Díaz Foundation (IIS-FJD) and of the Center for Biomedical Research on Red Cardiovascular Diseases (Cibervc), was awarded by the L’Oréal-Unesco program ‘For women in science‘ 2021, an initiative that rewards each year the most cutting-edge works of five national researchers under 40 years old.

Specifically, in this year’s edition of the awards, focused on the area of Life sciences with the aim of make female leadership visible in the scientific field, Méndez was recognized for her work “New mediators of the vascular communication endothelium-smooth muscle cell, in pathological vascular remodeling: a translational study’, which aims to deepen the mechanisms of vascular damage in order to contribute in the future to the development of new drugs useful for the treatment of these cardiovascular pathologies and/or early detection techniques of these diseases.

The prize, which the researcher collected together with Victoria del Pozo, deputy scientific director of the IIS-FJD, from Juan Alonso de Lomas, CEO of L’Oréal Spain and Portugal, and María A. Blasco Marhuenda, director of the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) and president of the jury of the prizes, were awarded Thursday at a ceremony held in Madrid.

“I fight because the result of my work in the laboratory, dedicated to dive into the mechanics vascular damage, can contribute in the future to the development of new useful drugs for the treatment of these cardiovascular pathologies and/or techniques for the early detection of these diseases”, declared the winner after being informed of the decision of the prize, endowed with 15,000 euro.

Cardiovascular disease prevention

Cardiovascular diseases and, in particular, atherosclerosis and aortic aneurysms, constitute one of the main causes of death in adults in Western countries. The way to prevent these diseases is to identify high-risk patients before they experience a clinical event. Thus, the study of the mechanisms involved in the development of these lesions vascular is essential. In this line, the objective of Méndez’s research is to identify the molecular signals of cellular communication that occur in the wall of blood vessels in early stages of the disease.

Regarding the presence of women in the scientific field, the researcher recognizes that the family reconciliation and work is still an “obstacle” in many professions, and it is also for the research career.

“This leads many women to decide not to have children and relegate one’s personal life to maintain his career as a researcher,” he says. In this sense, he also points out that the so-called “glass ceiling” continues to exist, since “there is a clear representation of research teams run by meneven if there are more women doing doctoral theses and pursuing post-doctoral studies”.

National and international route of the winner

Mendez I study biology at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and completed the final year of his degree at the University of East Anglia in the UK. He also studied master’s degree in biomedicine at UAM and obtained his doctorate in biochemistry, cell biology, biomedicine and biotechnology from the same university in 2014. His doctoral thesis, based on the study of inflammatory mediators involved in vascular diseases, was the subject of a special doctoral grant and developed at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC).

In his pre-doctoral phase, he spent time at Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute at Boston University and postdoctoral at Vascular Translational Science Laboratory Bichat Hospital (Inserm) in Paris. Moreover, during his postdoctoral years, he continued to work on the identification of molecules and Biomarkers of Vascular Diseases at the IIS-FJD, where he obtained two competitive scholarships from the Ministry of Science.

Since 2020, Méndez is principal researcher Miguel Servetusa program created and funded by the ISCIII, in the Vascular Pathology Laboratory of the Health Research Institute of the Jiménez Díaz Foundation, where he created his own research group.

The awarded research was chosen by a jury composed of: Blasco Marhuenda, director of the National Center for Cancer Research; María Vallet-Regí, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and Full Academician of the Royal Academies of Engineering and Pharmacy; Yes Rafael Garesse Alarconprofessor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UAM, of which he was rector until 2021.

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