Salvador Moncada is a Honduran-British pharmacologist and professor who has done path-breaking work in the discovery and development of new drugs. His discoveries aroused huge excitement in the scientific world and he was one of the world's most cited scientists throughout the 1990s. He was born in Honduras, and after completing his medical studies and obtaining a doctorate, became the Research Director of the Wellcome Research Laboratories. While at the post, he initiated various investigations on potential cures of several infectious diseases, and most importantly, led the research team working on prostaglandins. Later, he founded the UCL Wolfson Institute at University College London and served as its director for more than a decade. His later research focused more on subjects such as inflammation, vascular biology and the regulation of cell proliferation. He holds several honorary degrees from prestigious universities around the world. He holds five patents related to different drugs, and also serves as the author, contributor or manager of about 400 scientific publications. He is one of the most celebrated pharmacologists of the 20th century
Childhood & Early Life
Salvador Moncada was born on December 3, 1944, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Salvador Moncada and his wife, Jenny Seidner. The family moved to El Salvador in 1948.
From 1962 to 1970, Salvador Moncada studied medicine at the Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de El Salvador.
In 1971, he traveled to London to work on his doctorate with John Vane in the Department of Pharmacology at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons.
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After conducting research for a brief period at the University of Honduras, he was appointed the Head of the Division of Therapeutic Research at Wellcome Research Laboratories in 1985.
In 1986, he became the Head of UK Research in the Wellcome Pharmaceutical Company and later served as its Director of Research.
Over the next ten years, under his direction the company developed drugs for the treatment of epilepsy, migraine and malaria.
In 1996, he moved to University College London where he set up the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research in the Cruciform Building. He served as its director until 2012.
His later work focused on the areas of mitochondrial biology and cell metabolism. It led to the discovery of the molecular mechanism that coordinates cell proliferation with the provision of metabolic substrates required for this process.
He has also been a consultant of the Panamerican Health Organization. More recently, he founded ‘Honduras Global’, an international network of experts involved in supporting the development of Honduras.
Salvador Moncada has served as a visiting professor at several universities across the globe including the ones in Europe, USA, Latin America and Japan. Presently, he is the Director of the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Manchester.
In 1975, he led the team that discovered the enzyme thromboxane synthase and the vasodilator prostacyclin. This work contributed to the understanding of how low doses of aspirin prevent cardiovascular episodes such as myocardial infarction and stroke.
While serving as the Director of Research at the Wellcome Research Laboratories, he presided over the discovery and development of lamotrigine, atovaquone, and zomig. He also initiated the work that resulted in the development of lapatinib for the treatment of breast cancer.
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Awards & Achievements
In 1990, Salvador Moncada became the joint recipient of the ‘Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research’.
He serves on the panel of a number of international scientific societies holding positions as ‘Fellow of the Royal Society’, ‘Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London’, ‘Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America’, and ‘Honorary Fellow of University College, London’.
He is the recipient of several honorary degrees from prestigious universities around the world including the ‘Degree of Doctor “Honoris Causa” of the University Pierre & Marie Curie’ (1997), and ‘Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science of the University of Edinburgh’ (2000).
In 2000, he was awarded ‘The Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Medicine, UK’.
In 2010, he was honored with a Knighthood for his distinguished services to science.
In 2011, he was conferred with the ‘Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine’ by the University of Debrecen, Hungary.
In 2013, he received the prestigious ‘Ernst Jung Gold Medal for Medicine’. He is also the winner of many other scientific prizes including the ‘Amsterdam Prize for Medicine’.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was previously married to Dorys Lemus, a biochemistry teacher at the Medical School in El Salvador. The couple had two children together, Claudia Regina and Salvador Ernesto.
In 1998, Salvador Moncada married HRH Princess Esmeralda of Belgium, the youngest half-sister of King Albert II of the Belgians. They are blessed with two children, Alexandra Leopoldine and Leopoldo Daniel.