As one of the current leaders in the study of peptides extracted from marine snails and their applications in neurology, Dr. Lourdes Cruz has had a fruitful career both in the Philippines and abroad. She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a BS in Chemistry, and then continued her studies to pursue a Master's and PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa in the United States. After this, Dr. Cruz returned to the Philippines, where she began her postgraduate career as a research aid in 1962 at the International Rice Research Institute. Shortly after, she taught students as an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Biochemistry Department, and advanced to full time professor in 1977.
After a stint as a research associate and professor at the University of Utah, Dr. Cruz went back to the Philippines where she is currently based, at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute. Throughout her career, she has focused primarily on the chemical breakdown of the conus snail and how it can be applied to those patients who have chronic pain or suffer from disorders that affect the central nervous system in the body. This is a primary focus of the Marine Science Institute where Dr. Lourdes Cruz is currently stationed. Dr. Cruz has published over 120 papers, many of which are dedicated to this particular topic.
The biochemistry of toxic peptides from the venomous marine snails has been of great interest to many scientists on an international level, but because they are so common in the Philippines and surrounding Pacific Islands, there is perhaps no better place to study their effects and biology. Dr. Cruz has contributed research that has helped identify over 50 peptides that are present in this venom, which are now used as biochemical probes inside the human brain. Because they are neurotoxins, they simulate the types of toxins that could also be present in such diseases as schizophrenia, for example.
In addition to her research work, Dr. Lourdes Cruz is also well known for founding the Rural Livelihood Incubator, which is a social program dedicated to alleviating poverty in rural areas. This is accomplished by helping the local people find job stability or other ways to make a living. Dr. Cruz is also the recipient of a number of awards, including the Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology, and the National Research Council of the Philippines Achievement Award in Chemistry. In 2008, she was appointed to the rank of National Scientist.