Spotlight on the Scientist Andrea Gamarnik: the first Argentinian, female member of the American Academy of Microbiology

Dr. Andrea Gamarnik is Head of the Leloir Molecular Virology Lab and a researcher for the Argentinean Council of Investigation (Conicet). Together with her team, she studies molecular mechanisms of the dengue virus, paving the way for the discovery of new antiviral drugs.

Science and social commitment are the hallmark of this inspiring scientist’s life. She is known for her passion, drive and dedication in all of her endeavors, something she attributes to her mother, and something that has helped her make significant advancements in her field. She recently became the first female member of the American Academy of Microbiology, which conducts research in Argentina, and has gained international renown for her achievements in the field of dengue virus replications. This academy is composed of only a select group of prestigious scientists in the field, and it functions as a branch of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which is the oldest and largest single life science organization in the world, having been founded in 1899.

An Unexpected Change of Vocation

Nowadays, Dr. Gamarnik’s work is well known all over the world. However, as a young woman, Andrea was not so sure she wished to become a scientist.

Only one year before finishing high school and beginning her pursuit of a degree in Economics, Gamarnik made a radical change in her life. After a vocational orientation test, a psychologist recommended she follow a different course of study: one related to science.

With the help of her parents and uncle, and later with a scholarship granted by the Pharmaceutical Association of Lanús, Andrea finished her university studies and received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Buenos Aires in 1993. She did her postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco from 1994 - 1999.

In Search of a Social Sense

Her strong commitment to social change called her back to Argentina in 2001 when the country was immersed in one of the most serious economic and social crises of its history; and against all the advice telling her not to return, she did anyways, believing strongly in her own country.

When she applied for the Leloir Institute, Andrea Gamarnik was asked to choose an area to work in. She realized the dengue virus was a serious problem to which no efforts had been allotted and she decided to dedicate her work to understanding an illness that affects 390 million people per year around the globe (and for which there is still no specific vaccine or treatment).

That is how she began her research work, which, thanks to her team, has led her to attain important scientific achievements, such as the discovery of the molecular mechanism for dengue virus genoma replication. She has also published a series of essays in magazines such as Genes and Development, Virology, RNA and Journal of Biological Chemistry. Her studies on mechanisms for viral attenuation are the basis of rational design of vaccines and have already resulted in technology which has been exported to the USA.

Microbiology is a field which has outstanding scientists’ names associated with it, like Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, Alexander Fleming and Jonas Salk, all of whom have contributed to mayor scientific breakthroughs for humanity. In the twentieth century, one third of the Nobel Prizes for Physiology and Medicine have been awarded to microbiologists.

Internationally renowned for her research related to the dengue virus replication, which earned her the L’Oréal – UNESCO Fellowship in Argentina, Andrea Gamarnik is a passionate scientist who bets on science for those who have been left behind until now. 

For Women in Science

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