Women in Science Day 2021
In recognition of International Day of Women in Science, HHT Espana interviewed Dr Virginia Albinana recently about her work and her connections with HHT patients.
Question 1: What triggered your passion for science?
I always liked the Natural Science classes at school and later the Biology classes at the High school. In addition, I had some very good teachers who loved their work and enjoyed teaching their subject. When I was in my last year of high school it was clear for me that I wanted to study Biology, and I did and I don’t regret it, despite the uncertainty of the last few years about the difficulties of employment once I finished.
Question 2: How did you develop your interest in HHT?
I developed my Degree Final Project in Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia in 2006-2007, under the direction of Dr. Luisa Mª Botella Cubells. I remember that only the first time I entered the laboratory for this interview with Luisa, I saw clearly the work they were doing in Laboratory 109 of the Biological Research Centre was motivated BY and FOR the patients of this disease. It only depended on Luisa to allow me to stay and I was very lucky (of which I will always be grateful, Thank you Luisa! ) of starting and being able to continue as member of the lab, counting on me 16 years later. I have done my Doctoral Thesis on HHT, working in the laboratory until today. It has been a difficult path at times, since the funding in science is not what we would like and sometimes it is like climbing mountains, always uphill, but Luisa’s great devotion makes us all inspired to continue working for HHT and its patients. We have a great relationship with the Patients’ Association, so by putting a face to most of the patients and knowing each of their stories makes our motivation to find good results in our work and to be able to help them even greater than it already is.
Question 3: How does your work impact on the lives of HHT patients?
Most of my work at HHT has been about finding drug treatments that could alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease and improve their quality of life, so our laboratory work does have an impact on patients. Some of these drugs such as raloxifene, bazedoxifene or etamxilate were declared orphan drugs for HHT by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2010, 2016 and 2019, respectively, for the reduction of nosebleeds or epistaxis. Another important drug studied was propranolol, a famous anti-angiogenic that also had good results in HHT bleeds applied topically to the nasal mucosa. Having a very close relationship with doctors specialized in this disease, it has been very helpful to be able to test some of the drugs studied in the laboratory by transferring them to the patients.
Question 4: What struggles does a woman involved in science have to face?
I think that today this struggle is becoming less and less frequent, as there is an increasingly high percentage of women who are leading research groups. In spite of this, on the top levels there is always a majority of men, especially in directive positions. On the other hand, as woman and mother, it is very difficult to conciliate the mother and the research roles in Spain, at the moment.
Question 5: What message would you like to give to young women interested in becoming scientists?
I would tell them to go ahead, if that’s what they really want and desire, they have to go for it. Working on what you like, what makes you happy is priceless and they will not stop learning at any time. We already know that it is not easy to do research in Spain in terms of funding but you have to pursue your dreams and little by little everything comes.
“I am grateful to the Spanish HHT Association for the trust and help they always give us, it is a pleasure to be able to help improving people’s quality of life. We will continue working with all our strength”.