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Biography of Alberto Sols

Alberto Sols is unanimously recognized as the most important promoter of the birth and development of modern Biochemistry in Spain.

Alberto Sols was born in 1917 in Sax, a small town in Alicante. He began his medical studies in Valencia and finished them in Madrid after the end of the Civil War. He moved to Barcelona in 1944 where he began to study the mechanism of sugar absorption in the intestine, a topic on which he wrote his doctoral thesis and which had an unquestionable influence on his future research career.

A few years later he went to Saint Louis, Missouri, in the USA, since he had been admitted to one of the most prestigious enzymology laboratories in the world at that time, the laboratory of Carl and Gerty Cori, winners of the Nobel Prize in 1947. His two-year stay there had a decisive influence on his future career and allowed him to fully enter the field of enzymology.

On his return to Spain in 1954, struggling against many difficulties, he started up the so-called "Enzymology Laboratory" at the Faculty of Medicine of the University City of Madrid, attached to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), where he carried out investigations on enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism. Two years later, the incipient group of researchers directed by him moved to the new facilities of the Center for Biological Research (CIB, CSIC) as the Department of Enzymology, which would eventually become the Institute of Enzymology. For over a decade, Sols will develope at the CIB what is perhaps the most important period of his research work. The rigor and high level of his work aroused the admiration of many and made his work become a quality reference in the country. This is how he attracted several young people eager to seriously investigate Biochemistry, some of whom would become leaders in Spanish Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

At the end of the 1960s, Sols accepted the assignment from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) to teach Biochemistry at the recently founded Faculty of Medicine, and in 1971, being Research Professor at the CSIC, he moved with his entire group to the new building to occupy the Biochemistry Department, in which years later he was appointed professor. This group was be the embryo of what years later would become the Biomedical Research Institute, which in turn would become a CSIC-UAM joint center, to which the name of Alberto Sols was added shortly after his death in 1989.

In the words of Severo Ochoa, Alberto Sols was "the first scientist to successfully implant biochemistry on Spanish soil". Among other important contributions, he was one of the discoverers of hepatic glucokinase and its regulation by insulin and described for the first time an allosteric effect on hexokinase, an enzyme whose substrate specificity he had studied in great detail. In addition, he was instrumental in understanding the regulation of phosphofructokinase, another key enzyme in carbohydrate metabolism. He was also the main promoter for the creation of the Spanish Society of Biochemistry in 1963, of which he was its first president. Throughout his life he received numerous honors and awards in recognition of his important work. He died suddenly while on vacation at the age of 72.