The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics has elected the associate dean for research at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine as its next leader.

Wayne Backes is also a professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the school. He will begin his term as president-elect in July and then become president of the society in 2019.

The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics has 5,000 members who conduct basic and clinical pharmacological research and work for academia, government, companies and nonprofit organizations.

Backes joined the LSU Health New Orleans faculty as an assistant professor in 1984 after three years on the faculty at the University of Connecticut Health Center. He earned a doctorate in biochemistry from West Virginia University in 1979.

He has coordinated a number of national and international symposia and conferences on drug metabolism.

Backes is also an associate editor for Drug Metabolism and Disposition and Frontiers in Pharmacology, where he is a member of the editorial board. He has served as a reviewer for many other journals.

His research interest is drug metabolism, and he has been awarded about $30 million in grant funding over his career.

Loyola gets $1 million for trial curriculum

Loyola University's College of Law has received a $1 million gift that will endow and transform the law school’s trial advocacy curriculum, school officials announced.

The gift puts Loyola’s Faith in the Future campaign at $85 million of its $100 million goal. It is the most ambitious and successful fundraising campaign in the university's history.

The gift was bestowed by Loyola College of Law alumni Daniel Becnel Jr., a 1969 graduate, and retired Judge Mary Hotard Becnel, a 1980 graduate, both of LaPlace.

It will create the Danny and Mary Becnel Trial Advocacy Program. The program will be one of four critical pieces of the law school's newly envisioned Advocacy Center, which serves as an umbrella for programs including legal research and writing, arbitration and mediation, and moot court.

The unit is designed to prepare students for every type and phase of advocacy, officials said.

The Loyola College of Law created the Trial Advocacy Program in 1982 to prepare students for a smooth transition from the study of law to the practice of law by developing basic litigation skills that serve any area of legal practice.

The program focuses on learning by doing with practical instruction, demonstrations, mock clients, feedback and critiques. Students also have the opportunity to develop their skills in regional, state and national competitions.

Mary Hotard Becnel served 23 years as a trial judge in the state's 40th Judicial District Court, which comprises St. John the Baptist Parish, before retiring in 2016.

Danny Becnel, a high-profile trial attorney, recently retired from the Becnel Law Firm, which he founded.

Tulane professor gets $6M award

Jay Kolls, a professor of medicine and pediatrics and the John W. Deming Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine, was recently awarded a seven-year, $6 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to research how lungs fight deadly diseases.

The award will fund an entire research program. Kolls believes his team can make a number of discoveries in coming years.

He is looking for new ways to trigger an immune response in the lungs. His previous research focused on the role of T-helper cells in lung immunity, and now he is working on developing vaccines that could elicit a response from both T- and B-cells to fight lung infections.

One of the goals is to see if vaccines can be developed that stimulate the immune system without damaging the lung. He also wants to learn more about how T-cells work and if they communicate with other cells in the lung.

Knowing more about the vaccine response could help prevent infections like pneumonia in people whose immune systems are compromised.

The Outstanding Investigator Award allows investigators to conduct research that breaks new ground or extends previous discoveries in new directions. 

Follow Della Hasselle on Twitter, @dellahasselle.