Two Pharmacy Faculty Win New Investigator Awards

Cancer and antibiotics research earns support for junior faculty

Hoang Le

OXFORD, Miss. – Two assistant professors in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, both from the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, have won prestigious 2018 New Investigator Awards from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

Hoang Le, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, and Cole Stevens, assistant professor of pharmacognosy, each won one of only 16 new investigator awards bestowed by AACP this year.

“This is truly outstanding for the biomolecular sciences department and for our school,” said David D. Allen, Ole Miss pharmacy dean. “These awards are extremely competitive, and for Cole and Hoang to both receive one in a single year is fantastic.”

Le’s award resulted from his research on the rational design of inhibitors of two biologically complementary enzymes in cancer cell metabolism.

“Hoang has a laser-sharp focus and a contagiously positive mindset,” said Chalet Tan, associate professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery and collaborator on this research. “This is a highly significant project that could potentially lead to the discovery of novel anticancer agents.”

Le said he is “deeply honored and grateful” to receive the award, calling it an excellent first extramural research funding opportunity for new researchers.

“Some very successful faculty in our great School of Pharmacy have received this award, and I hope to be able to follow in their footsteps,” Le said.

Stevens’ winning research focused on using previously untried laboratory methods to discover new natural sources of antibiotics.

Cole Stevens

“Our group is interested in the holistic role of bacterial natural products in microbial environments,” Stevens said. “We believe that drug discovery works best when it’s serendipitous, and that bacteria are indifferent to our ills and wants.”

Josh Sharp, an assistant professor of pharmacology who collaborated on this research, called Stevens “a very creative researcher” who looks at bacteria in an almost entirely new way.

“Dr. Stevens’ approach to discovering new molecules and drug candidates is fairly unique, but in retrospect, it seems almost obvious based on how much sense it makes,” Sharp said. “He has a lot of potential to make a very large impact and discover entirely new classes of molecules.”

This is both Le’s and Stevens’ first award as independent researchers, and both hope that the award will help build a foundation for obtaining more funding in the future.

“I was immensely honored to receive this award and grateful to AACP for the opportunity and support,” Stevens said.