The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) is honoring the University of Kentucky’s Vice President for Research for her foundational contributions to our understanding of the renin-angiotensin system that has broad implications for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Lisa Cassis, PhD, a professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since joining the UK faculty in 1988.

Cassis has led many multi-million-dollar projects, including serving as program director of a 15-year NIH-supported Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) focused on obesity and cardiovascular diseases that has garnered over $27 million to support research development of junior investigators across an array of departments and colleges at UK.

“Throughout my career at UK, I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to focus my studies on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) in metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and a variety of offshoots from that initial work,” said Cassis.

The RAS is an endocrine system regulating blood pressure and fluid balance. An important finding by her UK research program showed that a component of the RAS is made in fat in our bodies, which shifted thinking about how obesity contributed to cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension. In collaboration with colleagues at UK, Cassis discovered that the RAS also contributes to vascular diseases, including aortic aneurysms and coronary artery disease. A major focus of her laboratory includes the study of sex differences in cardiovascular diseases to optimize therapeutics in men and women.

For her scientific contributions, ASPET will honor Cassis with the 2024 Robert R. Ruffolo Career Achievement Award in Pharmacology. The award recognizes scientists who are at the height of their careers and who have made significant contributions to pharmacology.

“This award recognizes our long-standing research program geared at identifying targets for drug development through the discipline of pharmacology. I have had the honor and privilege of meeting Dr. Ruffolo in whose name the award was developed, and it is indeed an honor to have my contributions recognized by ASPET as deserving of this recognition,” said Cassis, an ASPET member since 1997.

Cassis will receive the award at the ASPET 2024 Annual Meeting on May 19 in Arlington, Va.

In addition to the College of Medicine, Cassis has appointments in the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center, Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center and College of Pharmacy. She also has served as a mentor for MD and PhD students and many junior faculty.