Research will focus on developing new therapeutics based on overlooked microbes in the human gut
The Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) announced today that Veronika Kivenson has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Tory Burch Fellowship at the IGI. Entering its second year, the fellowship supports scientists whose work involves the development of solutions to global problems, while promoting gender equity in the biotech industry.
Kivenson is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology at Oregon State University, where she focuses on the nature of genetic code expansion in microorganisms, and its applications in health and the environment. She obtained her Ph.D. in 2019 in Marine Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Kivenson has an interdisciplinary background combining experiments both in the field and in the lab with computational analysis of the resulting data. As a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara, she uncovered an underwater dumpsite that is among the most contaminated places in the country. Her discovery led to international news coverage, public outcry, ongoing Senate hearings, a lawsuit, and millions in funding for studies to follow up on her work. While studying microbial data from dumpsite samples, she reconstructed genomes of bacteria that augment metabolism by expanding their genetic code. After realizing that genetic code expansion was being routinely missed in genomic studies, Kivenson searched for and found bacteria with this mechanism in other environments, including human gut-associated microbes.
It is increasingly understood that the microbial community in the human gut can make the difference between sickness and health, but most members of this community have not been studied extensively. A subset of gut microbes can expand their genetic code, enabling them to synthesize proteins that are often overlooked by researchers. For her Tory Burch Fellowship project, Kivenson will leverage her understanding of expanded genetic codes to develop new microbiome-inspired therapeutics, focusing on approaches to sever the link between diet and heart disease.
“In addition to working in state-of-the-art research facilities with guidance from mentors who are leaders in their fields, being awarded the Tory Burch Fellowship is also meaningful to me on a personal level,” says Kivenson. “The commitment of the Tory Burch Foundation and the IGI to providing support for underrepresented entrepreneurs resonates with me because of my background as a nontraditional scholar, and a graduate of both a community college and women’s college. As a Tory Burch Fellow, I am proud to serve as a representative of what students from these inclusive educational institutions are capable of achieving, and I am committed to making a difference for underrepresented groups in bio-entrepreneurship.”
Learn more about the Tory Burch Fellowship at the IGI and add your name to the mailing list to be notified about future opportunities.
About the Tory Burch Foundation
The Tory Burch Foundation empowers women and entrepreneurs in the United States by providing access to capital, education and digital resources: The Fellows Program has provided over $1.3M in grants to help women grow their businesses; the Tory Burch Capital Program, powered by Bank of America has distributed more than $63 million in loans to more than 3,500 women entrepreneurs; and the Foundation’s website, www.ToryBurchFoundation.org, is a go-to destination for women entrepreneurs. Each month, the Foundation provides online tools and digital education to more than 450,000 women, and more than 10,000 women have created their business plans on ToryBurchFoundation.org.
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