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Maria A. Blasco, CNIO Director, winner of Abogados de Atocha Award


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Maria Blasco. Crédito: Amparo Garrido / CNIO.

The award is given by the Castilla-La Mancha Workers' Commissions, through the Institute of Social Studies Foundation, in memory of the labour lawyers murdered in 1977.

By awarding the prize to Maria Blasco, Director of the CNIO, the jury wished to recognise "a person who fights for the right to be healthy, who demands equality in the world of science and society".

At a press conference this morning, the awarding of the Abogados de Atocha Prize to Maria A. Blasco was announced. It is an award granted by Comisiones Obreras de Castilla-La Mancha, through Fundación Instituto de Estudios Sociales, in memory of the labour lawyers murdered in their office at 55 Atocha Street on 24 January 1977. At the event, the Secretary for Organisation, Finance and Legal Services of CCOO CLM, Javier Ortega, and the President of the Fundación Instituto de Estudios Sociales, Antonio Arrogante, stressed that this award aims to recognise those people or institutions that stand out in the defence of Human Rights and the fight for freedoms, as well as to keep alive the memory of the Atocha Lawyers.

“It seemed to both the Regional Executive Committee of CCOO CLM and the Board of Trustees of the IES Foundation to recognise this year with the Atocha Lawyers Award a person who fights for the right to be healthy, who claims equality in the world of science and society,” said Arrogante.

The award ceremony will take place on 15 April in Toledo, in the San Pedro Mártir Building, at 18:30.

Professional career of Maria A. Blasco

Blasco obtained her PhD in 1993 at the “Severo Ochoa” Molecular Biology Centre under the supervision of Margarita Salas. That same year, she moved to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, joining the laboratory directed by Carol W. Greider as a postdoctoral fellow. As a postdoctoral fellow, she identified the essential telomerase gene and generated the first telomerase-deficient mouse model, which served to demonstrate the importance of telomerase in telomere maintenance, chromosomal instability and disease.

In 1997 he returned to Spain to set up his own research group at the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (CSIC; Madrid). In 2003 she moved to the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO, Madrid) as Director of the Molecular Oncology Programme and Head of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group – Fundación Humanismo y Ciencia. In 2005 she was appointed Deputy Director of Basic Research at the CNIO and in June 2011 she was appointed Director of CNIO.

For more than 20 years, Blasco’s work has focused on demonstrating the importance of telomeres and telomerase in cancer, as well as in ageing-related diseases.

Other recipients of the Abogados de Atocha Award

This year marks the 47th anniversary of the Atocha Massacre, when on that fateful 24 January 1977, extreme right-wing gunmen murdered five people and seriously wounded four others in the labour law office in Atocha Street. Lawyers Javier Sauquillo Pérez del Arco, Luis Javier Benavides Orgaz, Enrique Valdelvira Ibáñez and Serafín Holgado de Antonio were killed, as well as the trade unionist Ángel Rodríguez Leal from Cuenca. Seriously injured were Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta, Luis Ramos Pardo (died in 2005), Miguel Sarabia Gil (died in 2007) and María Dolores González Ruiz (died in 2015).

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of these brutal murders, the first International Lawyers of Atocha Award was presented, which, at the request of this trade union, was instituted in 2002 by the Government Council of Castilla-La Mancha to distinguish those persons or institutions that stand out in the defence of Human Rights and the fight for Freedom. This year it was awarded to Vidal de Nicolás (President of the Ermua Forum). In 2004 to Frei Betto (Zero Hunger Programme Brazil). In 2007 to the NGO “Nuestras hijas de regreso a casa” (Women of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico). In 2008 to Aung San Suu Kyi (Nobel Peace Prize 1991). In 2009 to Manuel López – posthumously. In 2010 to Francisca Sauquillo. And in 2011 to Marcelino Camacho – posthumously – and Nicolás Redondo.

In 2014 the recipient of the CCOO CLM Atocha Lawyers Award was Manuela Carmena, co-founder of the Atocha labour lawyers’ office. In 2015 the prize was awarded to José Antonio Martín Pallín, former public prosecutor and emeritus judge of the Supreme Court. In 2016 it was awarded to the labour lawyer Enrique Lillo. In 2017 to the writer Almudena Grandes. In 2018 to the singer-songwriter Raimon. In 2019 to the journalist Rosa María Mateo. In 2020 the actor Juan Diego Ruiz. In 2021, the pandemic situation made it necessary to present the award in a reduced format and with the public attending online, recognising the group of workers who during the worst of Covid-19 allowed the award to be given to the most vulnerable people. In 2022 it was possible to resume the gala in person, with the award going to the NGO Open Arms, which was collected by its founder Óscar Camps. In 2023 the award went to Joan Manuel Serrat. This year it has been awarded to María A. Blasco.

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