As a child growing up in a large family in rural Iran, Nayereh Ghoreishi-Haack, Assistant Director, Developmental Therapeutic Core, Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP) at Northwestern University, spent her days exploring the abundant orchards, bogs and farms that dotted the countryside near her home. Little did she guess that someday her childhood pastime would transport her from the family orchards to the labs of major US-based pharmaceutical companies, small biotech firms, and a world-renown research university.

“As a nature lover, I was fascinated by life and how our biological systems work in other beings, as well as in our bodies.”

Due to the political situation in Iran at the time, Ghoreishi-Haack immigrated to US in the late 80s.

Ghoreishi-Haack earned her BS in Zoology at University of Alabama in Huntsville.

“Just by luck, I was near graduation from college and visiting my sister in Chicago during Christmas,” said Ghoreishi-Haack. “I didn’t even have a CV, but I saw these ads in the Chicago Tribune for a research scientist posted by GD Searle.”

She applied for the position and, to her surprise, got the job. While at Searle, she earned her MS in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Northeastern Illinois University.

“At first, I was very naïve. I had no idea what it meant to be a pharmacologist,” Ghoreishi-Haack said. “Eventually, I learned how critical research was in fighting diseases and drug development.  That’s when I got hooked.”

While at Searle, Ghoreishi-Haack witnessed the blockbusting success of Celebrex (celecoxib), a cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitor for arthritis and pain that became one of the most prescribed drugs in the US at the time.

“It was fascinating to see the process of bringing a new drug from the laboratory bench to market,” she said.

Ghoreishi-Haack worked for Searle for 12 years, then moved to the Integrative Pharmacology Department at Abbott Labs.  There, she evaluated compounds for their efficacy from various cancer projects and against glioblastoma. Subsequent career moves included senior pharmacologist and senior research manager at AbbVie, Naurex Inc., and Apitnyx Inc., where she performed pre-clinical testing of potential new drugs in various therapeutic areas including inflammatory pain, neuropathic pain, and neurodegenerative diseases.

At Northwestern, Ghoreishi-Haack works closely with investigators across disciplines, and oversees efforts to evaluate preclinical models and lead compounds for potential new therapies for cancer and other diseases.

“Usually researchers move from academia to industry,” says Ghoreishi-Haack. “I’ve done the reverse because I knew I could have a greater impact working at CLP. Having all the cores nearby, and access to their resources and instruments, makes the Institute like a biotech: generating vast amount of data and capable of producing numerous INDs (investigational new drugs).”

by Lisa La Vallee