Today’s staff spotlight belongs to Janet Benson. Janet is one of Lovelace’s longest tenured scientist, with decades of experience and also one of the most respected and well-known leaders in the gene therapy space. Here, Janet gives us a little glimpse into her career, inspiration, and interests.
Role at Lovelace Biomedical – Study PI and Program Co-PI, Marketing, IACUC Member
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the opportunity to learn and participate in new (for me) areas of science. I decided to enter the field of toxicology because it is a wonderful mix/integration of many scientific fields (chemistry, physics, biology). I have been fortunate in my career to have the opportunity to explore many different areas of scientific investigation and work with the leaders in each of the respective fields.
I am also inspired by individuals I work with who have enthusiasm for and commitment to their jobs, who are transparent in their dealings with others.
Describe how you arrived at this point in your professional career.
As an undergraduate chemistry major I also took classes in many other sciences, and decided toxicology provided an excellent opportunity to combine them. Toxicology then mostly related to human toxicology, but UC Davis had a new and unique program in comparative pharmacology and toxicology, including environmental toxicology. That is where I wound up, and I guess things just progressed from there.
What defines success in your work?
Success could be looked at as having data we generated used for a practical purpose….setting workplace standards for occupational exposure to a compound, or air quality standards for human environmental exposure. Success is also getting a pharmaceutical/gene therapy product past an IND and into the clinic.
What are your ultimate goals while at Lovelace?
In my current capacity I feel my goals are to help progress as many gene therapy products to the clinic as possible, based on their efficacy and safety/biodistribution as we determine in our studies here.
Most important contribution?
During the 1980’s and 1990’s we performed many studies with nickel compounds assessing their carcinogenicity and basic respiratory tract toxicity for the National Toxicology Program and the Nickel Producers Environmental Research Association. The data we obtained has been used by several regulatory groups to set work place and environmental inhalation exposure standards. I think this has been important.
I would also like to believe that our work in gene therapy will improve the quality of life for many others in the future.
What are your challenges?
A big challenge is keeping up with the field (mostly gene therapy), both in the marketing aspect for Lovelace, but also the regulatory and basic science aspects. I want to remain credible.
I study martial arts, language, and piano. I enjoy reading all kinds of books, and like to walk at sunset, ride bikes, and travel both in the US and abroad.