Lydia Villa-Komaroff

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Lydia Villa-Komaroff is a second generation Mexican American lady who, along with a research team, discovered bacterial cells could be used to generate insuiln. Born Lydia Villa in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on August 7, 1947, Villa-Komaroff graduated from Goucher College in Maryland with a Bachelors in biology. In 1970, she married her long-time boyfriend Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff, and they moved to Boston where Villa-Komaroff enrolled in the doctorate program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She did her graduate work in molecular biology, and her PhD dissertation was on how proteins were produced from RNA in polio virus.

It was at the Harvard Medical School that Villa-Komaroff, along with a team of researchers, who made the discovery on how bacterial cells could be used to generate insulin. Her work was featured in the 1995 documentary the “DNA Detective” that highlighted her research. This segment ran as part of a six-part PBS (Public Broadcasting System) TV series women in science in the overall program series Discovering Women. Currently, Villa-Komaroff has continued since 2005 to serve as senior and board member of several biotechnology companies and continues to serve on boards and committees on both private and public institutions. Among the awards and honors Villa-Komaroff has received are the 2008 Hispanic Scientist of the Year award from the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida, the 2008 Lifetime Achievement award from the Hispanic Business Media, and an honorary doctoral degree from Regis College in Massachusetts.

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