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Cristina Garmendia: "You have to pursue your dreams and have the resilience to carry them out".

The txoko of Tecnun hosted a meeting between the former minister and the students of Science, Engineering and Architecture.

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Cristina Garmendia together with students and researchers in Tecnun PHOTO: Communication Service
01/02/18 13:49 Communication Service

The first lecture of "Women for Science and Technology" in 2018 was held at the auditorium of the School of Engineers Tecnun, last January 12, under the title "Innovation for a more human future". The speaker was Dr. Cristina Garmendia, graduate in Biology, President of the COTEC Foundation for Innovation and Minister of Science and Innovation of the Government of Spain during the IX Legislature.

In this meeting participated students from the faculties of Science, Architecture and the technical school of Engineers of San Sebastian (Tecnun). The 30 students had the opportunity to interview the promoter of the company Genetrix on issues related to her work experience and staff as a scientist and as a woman who has developed her career in the field of Science and Technology. 

Cristina Garmendia

Scientific vocation

Did you always want to be a scientist?

Since I was a child I was fascinated by academic research. I dreamed of dedicating myself to it. That's why I feel fortunate to have been able to do what I love the most.

When I started researching, I saw that there were discoveries that could result in therapies for people, and I understood that the only way to materialize them was to create my own company. And that's what I did, because you have to pursue your dreams and have the resilience to carry them out.

I asked a pharmaceutical company for money and they helped me get started, but it was not easy. I had to go and talk to the president of the CSIC, for example, and tell him that I wanted to set up a company within the National Technology Center. I also believe that when you are clear about model, you have to defend it. Two years later, and thanks to people who believed in this company, we were the first private company within a public center. It was 2001.

On which area did your company focus?

One of the projects we incubated was a fat stem cell therapy to improve the treatment of fistulas (in 2004). At that time there was no cellular drug available for that subject, so we had to ask for permission from the European Medicines Agency. Fourteen years later, I can tell you that a few weeks ago we received authorization from the European Agency to market it. But what did we have to do to achieve this achievement: everything necessary. Among other things, we had to obtain financing. That is why I recommend that you do not settle back in comfort, but widen your vision.

If something does not exist, it will have to be created. And if it is an asset that makes sense for society, it will surely end up materializing. And keep in mind that if you are going to set up a company, choose your partners well, since you will not be able to get rid of them. In my opinion, in this situation it is important to have partners with a good background as people.

Cristina Garmendia

status of women in science and technology careers

Why do you think women are less interested than men in studying technical careers? 

On the one hand, there is theprevailing culture and Education - in general, at least for women of my generation, we were not educated for it. Although this status is changing, fortunately. 

In my case I can also say that I was privileged. I became the first woman in my family to work. I remember my father used to tell me: "To be happy you have to be free, and to be free you have to depend on your education. You don't have to depend on your father or your husband."

Being educated in this way is a privilege that many of my friends, for example, have not enjoyed. In this sense, I would dare to say that you also have to choose your partner well, in order to have a relationship as an equal.

Finally, it is necessary for society as a whole to work to ensure that companies hire women without being afraid that they will become pregnant. Pregnancies are a blessing, not a problem.

Woman, scientist and politician

What would you highlight from your time in politics?

At first I did not understand anything that happened to me because in politics there are few things that are governed by common sense.

You start with a very critical attitude, but then you realize that common sense has to give way to political sense. Why? Very simple: because politics is the tool we have at our disposal to promote the development of society. 

When I understood the gearing, I was convinced that I had to develop that political sense that I didn't have because I actually came from a business background.

One of the things I found most difficult was understanding the dynamics of politics and knowing how to develop them without ever having worked in that field.

Finally, I think I was able to keep my status as an independent minister. The president granted it to me without any interference. And with all this we managed to change the Science Law, something that today I value as hard but enriching and, above all, as my greatest political success, achieved based on intuition and common sense.

Would you like to return to politics tomorrow?

Not at all. It is something I absolutely rule out. However, although I would never go back to that world, I think I would repeat the experience of getting to know it from the inside.

It was a very interesting time and I took with me the great satisfaction of having C, with a broad consensus, the Science Act. Of course, my time in politics transformed my life forever

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