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Torres Odio awarded F31 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

NIH fellowship awarded to outstanding predoctoral students who come from underrepresented groups in biomedical research

Sylvia Torres Odio, a fourth-year graduate student at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine, has recently been awarded an F31-Diversity Pre-Doctoral Fellowship from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The fellowship, which started in September and runs for three years, allows Torres Odio to continue her research studying a novel antiviral protein called cytidine/uridine monophosphate kinase 2 (CMPK2). Her ongoing work suggests that CMPK2 localizes to mitochondria, which are cellular organelles involved in energy metabolism and immunity. Torres Odio has found that CMPK2 is broadly active against viruses, including a mouse coronavirus that shares features with SARS-CoV-2. The short-term objective of her research is to define the antiviral activity of CMPK2, with the ultimate goal of developing new therapies to protect against viral infection.

Torres Odio works in the lab of Phillip West, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology at the College of Medicine. West will work with Julian Leibowitz, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology at the College of Medicine, as Torres Odio’s research co-mentors during the fellowship.

“Dr. Leibowitz and I are extremely proud of Sylvia’s accomplishment,” West said. “NIH F31-Diversity fellowships are highly competitive and prestigious awards that recognize academic and research excellence from individuals traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. Sylvia is an outstanding graduate student and a great ambassador for our program. I am excited to see how this fellowship shapes her future research and career in science.”

Torres Odio earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and master’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Havana in Cuba. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Medical Sciences at the College of Medicine. Her research interests include immunology, virology and cell biology.

“I was very happy to learn that I was awarded this fellowship,” Torres Odio said. “It was something I wanted to achieve as a graduate student but wasn’t sure if I’d be successful. It was really rewarding to have support and guidance from Dr. West, Dr. Leibowitz, and the College of Medicine when I was applying. I hope my fellowship research becomes a catalyst for future studies on therapies that prevent or treat COVID-19 and other life-threatening viruses.”

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