Colombia’s President Ivan Duque today named Bahía Soláno, Chocó native Mabel Gisela Torres Torres PhD as Colombia’s new minister of Science, Technology & Innovation. Torres is a scientist from Colombia’s Pacific Coast who after 9 years of study abroad, returned to the Department of Chocó to launch the therapeutic cosmetics company, Selvaceúticals S.A.S. (from the words Selva for forest, and Pharmaceutical) which as its mission reconciles economics, science and ancestral knowledge.
Born June 13, 1972, Torres is a biochemist with a masters in microbiology from the Universidad del Valle in Cali, and PhDs in biological science and fungal systematics from the University of Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico. She also holds a masters in innovation & entrepreneurship from the OBS Business School at the University of Barcelona. She is a professor at the Technological University of Chocó in the departmental capital of Quibdó.
Colombia’s new Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation was created by Law 1951 of 2019, signed into law on December 5. According to President Duque, the new office will be “the governing body of science, technology and innovation policy, which builds capacity, promotes scientific and technological knowledge, contributes to the development and growth of the country and anticipates future technological challenges, always seeking the well-being of Colombians and consolidate a more productive economy. ”
In 1988, Torres entered the Universidad del Valle in Cali to study Biochemistry, earning a bachelors degree in 1993. Between 1994 and 1998 she completed a master’s degree at the same university in microbiology while working on a research project on ‘Gastric Cancer Chemoprevention’ at the same institution.
From January 1998 to August of the same year, she taught Microbiology at the Technological University of Pereira. A year later, and until 2002, Torres worked as a professor of Environmental Microbiology at the Technological University of Chocó. Concurrently, between August 1998 and March 1999, she was scientific advisor of the Chocó Department of Health’s departmental reference laboratory, and also served as Head of Quality Control of Public Enterprises of Quibdó, a position she held until June 2003 .
In August of that same year, Torres traveled to Mexico where she earned a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Guadalajara. Her thesis ‘Systematics of Ganoderma P. Karst. Morphological, Molecular and Chemical Aspects’ was defended successfully, and she received the title of Doctor in August, 2007. That same year, she started postdoctoral studies at the same University in ‘Fungal Bioprospecting and Systematics’.
President Duque signed Decree 2226 of 2019 establishing the structure of the ministry created by Law 1951 of 2019 creating MinCiencias, an initiative promoted by Senator Iván Agudelo and supported by the administration.
Doctor Torres returned to Colombia with her PhD in 2012, and until 2016, she served as Executive Director of the Bioinnova Research and Innovation Center of the Diego Luis Córdoba Technological University of Chocó. The center is part of a national strategy to lead the development of Colombian biodiversity as an economically sustainable resource for local, regional and national communities. It was during this period that she launched Selvacéuticals S.A.S. and completed her master’s degree studies with the University of Barcelona.
Among Dr. Torres’ many accolades are the ‘Afro-Colombian of the Year’ in the ‘Science and Technology’ category, awarded by the Color de Colombia-El Espectador Foundation; Globalizer Program Social Innovator of the world, granted by Ashoka-IKEA, Delf-Netherlands; ‘The Best Coo’, Social category, granted by Coomeva Cooperativa, Quibdó; Ashoka Fellow, awarded by Ashoka, USA and she was named winner of the Teaching Excellence Contest of the National University of Colombia.
Photos courtesy of The Presidency of Colombia. Photo credit: Juan Pablo Bello