Dr. Mavis Agbandje-Mckenna, a world-renowned scientist, structural virologist, mentor, teacher, and beloved colleague, passed away at the age of 57, at her home in Gainesville, Florida on March 3, 2021, after an 8-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Mavis was born on April 11, 1963, in Orogun, Nigeria, but moved as an 11-year-old with her parents to the United Kingdom to escape the civil war in Nigeria. Mavis obtained her Ph.D. in Biophysics in Dr. Stephen Neidle’s laboratory at the University of London in 1989. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Michael Rossmann’s laboratory at Purdue University, and then accepted a faculty position at the University of Warwick. In 1999, Mavis was recruited to the University of Florida where she rose to the rank of Professor and became Director of the Center for Structural Biology.
Mavis was not only a world class scientist, but she was also an exemplary teacher and mentor. She was a sought-after collaborator, and published more than 215 scientific papers, with 63 co-authors from 14 different countries – Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Israel, Netherland, Spain, UK, and USA. In USA, she collaborated and co-published with researchers at 20 different academic institutions – City of Hope Medical Center, Cornell University, Duke University, Emory University, Kansas University Medical Center, Michigan State University, National Institutes of Health, Rice University, Salk Institute, University of Florida, University of Iowa, University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Missouri, University of Montana, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania, University of South Florida, Wake Forest University, Western Michigan University, and Yale University. Her main interest was towards viruses of the family Parvoviridae, including AAVs and a variety of shrimp, rodent, mink, canine, gorilla, and human parvoviruses.
Mavis was recognized numerous times for her many scientific achievements. These included the University of Florida Innovator of the Year Award in 2018, and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy in 2020. Mavis also co-founded an AAV gene therapy company, StrideBio.
Mavis is survived by her husband, Dr. Robert McKenna; son, Sean McKenna, and daughter, Nicole McKenna; and a granddaughter, Lyn McKenna.