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Maria João Saraiva wins career award for research in the area of paramyloidosis

Scientist Maria João Saraiva was recently distinguished with the Giampaolo Merlini Prize, awarded by the International Amyloidosis Society, in recognition of the work she developed in the area of familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP), also known as paramyloidosis or “foot disease”. This award recognizes “outstanding achievements in clinical and/or translational research in the field of amyloidosis (...) and focuses on innovative advances in the field of amyloidosis or extraordinary contributions in this area”.

The researcher will receive the award at the Society’s annual conference, which will take place in May 2024 in Minnesota, United States, when she will also present her work at the Giampaolo Merlini Lecture. For Maria José Saraiva, receiving this award is “a great honor” since “it represents an international recognition of the importance of the work carried out over 40 years and its consequences on the scientific basis of amyloidosis and its treatment, in particular in paramyloidosis”.

Familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP) was described for the first time in the Portuguese population in the Póvoa do Varzim area by the neurologist Corino de Andrade, but the name of the researcher Maria João Saraiva is linked to the discovery of the biochemical and genetic mechanisms responsible for the disease, namely the formation of deposits of transthyretin-derived amyloid (TTR) molecules, especially in peripheral nerves. Based on these fundamental discoveries, Maria José Saraiva expanded her field of research to include signaling pathways that play an important role in situations of brain injury, particularly in the context of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral ischemia.

Maria João Saraiva graduated in Biology from the University of Porto, in 1976, and obtained a master's degree in Biochemistry from the University of London, in 1978. Between 1980 and 1984, she completed her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Porto. She was a professor of Biochemistry at the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICBAS), having been appointed Full Professor in 1991. She also worked, for various periods, as a Visiting Scientist at Columbia University, in New York. In 1997 she began researching at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology (IBMC), which is now part of i3S, and is currently leader of the Molecular Neurobiology research group at i3S.

Author of more than 250 articles in specialized journals and several reviews on the subject of familial amyloid polyneuropathy and transthyretin biology, Maria João Saraiva has already been distinguished with several awards: In 1996, she received the Seiva Award for Services to Science awarded by the Municipal Council of Porto, in 2009 the Gulbenkian Science Prize, from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, for her work in the area of Biomedicine, in particular in researching the mechanisms of PAF, and in 2019, she received the National Medal of Scientific Merit from the Portuguese Government, for her contribution to the development of science in the country.