Lorena Geilen

Mentor: Dr. Mavis McKenna
College of Medicine Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
"The summer before starting at the University of Florida I learned about a research team that had successfully used viruses to cure Leukemia in a young child. I had gotten so involved in the study that it inspired me to look through various research labs offered at UF. I was ecstatic when I finally joined Dr. McKenna's lab. Since then, I have gained invaluable experience that I will carry into my medical career."


Biochemistry & Economics



Research Interests

  • Virology
  • Molecular Biology

Academic Awards

  • Dean's List
  • UF University Scholars Program


  • N/A


  • Alachua County Victim Services and Rape CrONE.UF Center
  • Shands Hospital Volunteer

Hobbies and Interests

  • Reading
  • Documentaries
  • Travel
  • Music

Research Description

Investigating H-1PV Receptor Binding for Tumor Targeting
The H-1 parvovirus (H-1PV) has been shown to target and lyse tumor cells. Although H-1PV is a rodent virus, it also has specificity for human cancer cells. When treated with H-1PV, both rodent and human-derived tumors are reduced in size. This makes H-1PV a strong candidate for cancer therapy. The first step of an infection is binding of virus to a receptor that is located on the cell surface, and for this reason, binding is the limiting step of viral infection. In wild type H-1PV, the virus capsid binds to sialic acid (SIA). My project will confirm this SIA binding site. This information will allow us to understand how H-1PV binds cancer cells and can be used to improve tumor-targeting strategies in the future. Our lab and others have mutated the amino acids located at the SIA binding site. These H-1PV mutants will be tested for their effect on H-1PV binding to SIA. The proposed research project will require harvesting and purifying H-1PV mutants, to be tested for SIA binding. Once we understand the effects of each mutation on binding, we will combine this with our structural data to look more closely at the binding mechanism for H-1PV to tumor cells. In the future, this understanding can be expanded to develop tumor-targeting viral therapy.