Ma. Cecilia Conaco

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Ma. Cecilia Conaco, from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, was a post-doctoral researcher at the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of California, where she became a recipient of the Excellence in Neuroscience Research Award.


Conaco completed her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Stony Brook University in New York.


Conaco was awarded a PHP 400,000 grant under the For Women in Science (FWIS) program of L'Oreal, a cosmetics firm and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for her research on sponges which scientists believe may help cure cancer. Her research proposal, entitled “Dynamic Gene Regulation in Marine Sponges”.

Her work aims to provide insights into the development of drugs, antibiotics and nanomaterials by studying the genes of different sponges and their response to environmental changes. She explained that sponges are dubbed as “drugstores or pharmacies” of the ocean for they have many chemicals. She added that sponges serve as an ideal system to study environmental effects for they filter sea water for food. By the end of her study, she also aims to provide insights on how to properly conduct resource monitoring and conservation efforts. Conaco admitted that finding a cure for cancer from sponges may take a long time since the amount of compounds they can get from sponge is very small. However, she assured that the FWIS is not giving up without a fight since science is a fast-moving field and everyone is becoming more collaborative.




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