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Dr. Katerina Takova is developing a product for diagnosis of coronavirus

The Bulgarian scientist received one out of the three annual “For Women in Science” Awards

Photo: Ani Petrova

Women in science deserve encouragement and support, especially when they have to combine the roles of a dedicated scientist, caring mother and wife. The "For Women in Science" Awards are a recognition for them. A global cosmetics company together with UNESCO have presented the annual award to prominent young Bulgarian scientists for the 12th time. A few days ago, biologist Katerina Takova-Sakaliyska of the "Paisiy Hilendarski" University in Plovdiv also received the award.

Dr. Katerina Takova aims to create a commercial product for the diagnosis of Covid-19. She is a postdoctoral researcher at the "Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology" department of the university.

"I am part of a team that works on the production of important viral proteins in whole tobacco plants," she says. “The project that brought me the award is related to the production of proteins from SARS-CoV-2 for the diagnosis of specific antibodies against coronavirus. The project is still in its early stage, but we have encouraging initial results and will probably announce them next year.”

The scientist hopes that as the research progresses, some bio-pharmaceutical company will be interested in the product developed in the laboratory in Plovdiv. In the meantime, she hopes that science and business in Bulgaria will cooperate more in order for innovations to have a practical focus. "Scientists have been looking for more contacts with the business, and vice versa," she adds.

Katerina discovered activities in the laboratory as a possible path in her life back in 2015: "I am grateful to have met an exceptional woman who guided me in science, and that is my scientific supervisor Dr. Gergana Zahmanova. She was with me as early as my bachelor's thesis."

Katerina Takova later managed to complete the master's program "Molecular Biology and Biotechnology", to specialize at the University in the Portuguese city of Algarve, to meet leaders in the field at the “John Innes" research center in Norwich, to defend a doctoral thesis on the physiology of plants, to co-author seven scientific publications. She says that the basis of her success is unconditional patience, which is of great importance in science where results do not come quickly.

"The world needs science" was a sentence often heard during the award ceremony. We asked Katerina Takova, who has more power when it comes to making a change - scientists or politicians?

"I believe that partnership between scientists and politicians is the best strategy, because we cannot do without each other,” she says. “We have different expertise and everyone can contribute with something. In general, partnership is the most important thing when it comes to sustainable development. What we need right now is to assess our priorities as a society. If we set goals and value our priorities, it would be much easier to have a direction to follow.”

But is the school a partner of scientists, succeeding in inspiring its graduates for science?

"An interesting fact is that I was a teacher for almost 4 years,” the scientist says. “What I saw encourages me to think that more and more attention is being paid to science in school. The Ministry of Education has a strategy to build STEM centers to help introduce science literacy at an early age and I believe the partnership will deepen. Secondary education will look for more contacts with the universities, which can also benefit from the exchange of experience.”

Despite having many opportunities for scientific career abroad, Katerina chose to stay in Bulgaria. "When I get on the plane and hear Bulgarian languageI am gripped by a special feeling that makes me want to develop in Bulgaria," she told Radio Bulgaria. Here she has the basic things she needs to develop her potential. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the most important thing is to see the attention of society towards science and appreciation for the work of scientists. "The conditions are favorable - we have scientists, we have infrastructure, we have partnerships, and we are by no means starting from scratch," Dr. Katerina Takova says in conclusion.

English: Al. Markov

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