Team effort brings national recognition to School of Pharmacy researcher

Ninh (Irene) M. La-Beck, Pharm.D.When she delivers the annual New Investigator Award lecture in October at The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) 2016 Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Florida, Ninh (Irene) M. La-Beck, Pharm.D., will be representing many others whose efforts she says helped her achieve such recognition.

“Research is a team endeavor and I could not have done any of this without the dedication of my current and former research technicians and students,” La-Beck says without hesitation. “My husband also deserves at least half the credit for my work; I would not have chosen and persisted on this path were it not for his unwavering support, encouragement and patience.”

Among other criteria, ACCP’s New Investigator Award recognizes a significant research contribution in clinical pharmaceutical science and whose research program includes a substantial publication record, a programmatic theme or an especially noteworthy single publication. La-Beck certainly meets that standard, as many of her peer-reviewed research papers, review articles, book chapters and abstracts have been published in leading research journals, including Cancer Medicine; Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics; Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; and Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine.

La-Beck, an assistant professor for the Department of Immunotherapeutics and Biotechnology at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy campus in Abilene, says her current research focuses on understanding how interactions between anticancer drugs and the immune system alters the immune response against tumors. With funding from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, and by utilizing a combination of studies in cells, animals and patients, her research team has uncovered new ways a class of nanoparticle anticancer drugs currently used in the clinic can affect and regulate the cell immunity.

“We are now developing ways to leverage these immunological effects to fight cancer more effectively,” La-Beck adds. “Ultimately we expect that this work will lead to new drugs and new treatment combinations that will prolong the lives of patients with cancer.”

In addition to her work in the laboratory and the classroom, La-Beck’s has recently served as a study section reviewer of developmental therapeutics for the NIH Center for Scientific Review. She also co-authored a chapter in the National Cancer Institute’s 2015 Cancer Nanotechnology Plan, and she was an invited speaker at the 2015 European Summit for Clinical Nanomedicine in Basel, Switzerland and the 2016 Mechanisms and Barriers in Nanomedicine Conference at the Colorado Center for Nanomedicine and Nanosafety in Breckenridge, Colorado.

La-Beck says she feels humbled and very fortunate to receive ACCP’s New Investigator Award. She said she the shares the award with her research team, collaborators and supporters. The list includes research technicians and students Robin Rajan, Manoj Sabnani, Sandrine Bonkoungou, Saeed Alzghari, Grant Petersen, Alex Le, Bradley Rowland, Rebecca Stark and many others; and current and former departmental colleagues Drs. Laurence Wood, Devin Lowe, Jon Weidanz, Magdalena Karbowniczek, Maciej Markiewski and Aris Astreinidis.

“I am also thankful for the insightfulness of my mentor and collaborator, Dr. Alberto Gabizon,” La-Beck says. “In the future I think this will award will help me to identify new research collaborators, expand my research program in new directions and recruit more talented students and research personnel to my research group.”

For more information about La-Beck and the ACCP New Investigator Award, visit the AACP website.

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