Dr. Leslie Boyer Named 2013 Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year
The founding director of the VIPER Institute at the UA College of Medicine has been honored by the Arizona Bioindustry Association for her scorpion antivenom research.

By Jean Spinelli, Arizona Health Sciences Center
Sept. 26, 2013

Leslie with Gila.jpg

Dr. Leslie Boyer with a gila monster.
Dr. Leslie Boyer with a gila monster. (Photo by Jacob Chinn)

Toxicologist and pediatrician Dr. Leslie Boyer, founding director of the VIPER (Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response) Institute and associate professor of pathology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, has been named the 2013 Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year by the Arizona Bioindustry Association, or AZBio.

Boyer will be honored at the 2013 AZBio Awards on Oct. 10 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

The award honors the life science researcher in Arizona who has made the most significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge and the understanding of biological processes, as measured by publications and/or professional acknowledgement of their work in either an academic or commercial setting.

Boyer was chosen in recognition of her work as lead investigator for the multicenter scorpion antivenom clinical trials program conducted in Arizona and Nevada by the UA, which resulted in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of Anascorp, an antivenom developed with the Institute of Biotechnology of the Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico. The FDA approval was the culmination of a nearly 12-year collaboration of academic and clinical researchers with partners in business and industry from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The FDA's Office of Orphan Products Development named Boyer one of 30 heroes of rare diseases in 2013. The May-June edition of International Educator featured an article about the cross-border collaboration.

A member of the UA's BIO5 Institute, Boyer has focused her scientific career on venomous bites and stings, which are often unrecognized public health issues. She began by developing public education programs that offer poison and toxin emergency treatment advice. She started her career in antivenom research during her clinical fellowship when she worked on an FDA-funded project that led to the development of CroFab, the standard antivenom given to victims of rattlesnake bites.

In announcing Boyer's selection as Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year, Joan Koerber-Walker, AZBio president and CEO, noted: "There are many benefits to living in Arizona's desert environment, but we also share our home with native creatures whose sting or bite can range from painful to even life threatening. Thanks to the work of Dr. Boyer and her team of life science innovators, when the viper strikes or the scorpion stings, our health-care community and caregivers around the world have a solution."

Boyer has been the principal investigator in 10 clinical studies involving new antivenom technologies, with funding from the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development, the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, the Arizona Department of Health Services and private companies.

Her work includes a clinical studies program conducted throughout Arizona with protocols for placebo-controlled, double-blind trials, open-label studies, historical control studies and treatment protocols in a statewide hospital network. She has coordinated phase two and phase three multicenter clinical trials of pit viper antivenom, developed the Antivenom Index and participated in the establishment of the Pan-American Lymphotoxinology Taskforce. This year, her team has begun clinical trials of a new antivenom for the treatment of coral snake bites.

A Tucson native, Boyer received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1985 and completed residencies in pediatrics at Children's Hospital in Boston in 1987 and the Arizona Health Sciences Center in 1989, where she also completed a fellowship in medical toxicology in 1991.

In addition to honoring Boyer, the 2013 AZBio Awards will recognize UA professor emeritus Dr. Thomas M. Grogan, founder of Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, with the 2013 AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement. Grogan currently is senior vice president, medical affairs, at Ventana. Since the formation of Ventana in 1985, he has played an integral role in evaluating the development of novel therapeutics from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and assists in the establishment of strategic alliances and other collaborations to develop diagnostic tests for targeted therapeutics. He has taught in the Department of Pathology at the UA College of Medicine since 1979 and as a tenured professor has led the hematopathology clinical service. He also is an associate member of the UA Cancer Center.

Extra info

Other UA faculty members previously honored by AZBio include:


2012 Arizona Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement: Dr. David S. Alberts, director emeritus, UA Cancer Center; Regents Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology, Nutritional Science and Public Health; member, BIO5 Institute; and Dr. Raymond L. Woosley, founding president and chairman of the board, AZCERT, Inc.; UA professor emeritus, medicine and pharmacology; member, UA Sarver Heart Center.


2012 Michael A. Cusanovich Educator of the Year: Jennifer Kehlet Barton, UA interim vice president for research; professor, biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, optical sciences, agriculture and biosystems engineering; member, UA Cancer Center and BIO5 Institute.


2011 Michael A. Cusanovich Educator of the Year: Nadja Anderson, director, BIOTECH Project, UA Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology; member, BIO5 Institute.


2009 Bioscience Educator of the Year Award: Barbara Fransway, outreach coordinator and research specialist, UA Arizona Research Laboratories.


2008 Award for Research Excellence: Rod Wing, director, UA Arizona Genomics Institute; Bud Antle Endowed Chair in Plant Molecular Genetics, School of Plant Sciences, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and member, BIO5 Institute.


The Jon W. McGarity Leadership Award for 2008: The late Michael Cusanovich, PhD, then Regents Professor of Biochemistry and director, UA Arizona Research Laboratories.



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Jean Spinelli

Arizona Health Sciences Center