Dr. K. Sandy Pang is first Canadian-based researcher to receive ISSX North American award recognizing research impact

Portrait of Sandy Pang

Professor K. Sandy Pang, a U of T alumna and professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, is the first Canadian researcher to receive the prestigious lifetime achievement award from the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics (ISSX). The ISSX North American Scientific Achievement Award in Honor of Ron Estabrook recognizes her important research contributions to the fields of drug metabolism, drug transport, and pharmacokinetics. These findings have transformed scientists’ understanding of physiologic mechanisms surrounding drug disposition.

“It’s a real honour to be nominated and selected for this award because not many people have received it,” she says.

“I feel very honoured and humbled with a recognition like this.” 

Pang earned her B.Sc. in pharmacy at U of T, then completed her PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California at San Francisco (Medical Center). After a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and four years as assistant professor in Houston, Texas, she joined U of T in 1982 as an associate professor of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, at the Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine.

Pang’s research encompasses the development of mathematical expressions to describe physiologic mechanisms on how the body absorbs, transports, breaks down and clears drugs by tissues and organs such as the liver, intestine, brain, and kidney. Her early research focused on understanding how the liver microcirculation or flow-pattern affects drug removal or clearance by the liver – a critical development in the field. 

The award nominators and ISSX also noted Pang’s research that further identifies important variables such as enzyme, transporter and flow heterogeneity in regulating liver drug clearance. Then, recognizing that the intestine is also an important drug metabolizing tissue, she developed a split flow intestinal model to explain the greater extent of intestinal metabolism with oral than intravenous drug routing.

Since then, she has become a leader in metabolite pharmacokinetics, which relates to how metabolites are created upon drugs broken down are absorbed, distributed and eliminated.  Her most recent work integrates all of the conceptual frameworks to examine the kinetics of calcitriol, the active component of vitamin D, as well as identify new pharmacological targets of the vitamin D receptor. Her team continues to study drug metabolism and interactions, with a particular focus on calcitriol or other interesting concepts, including drugs of abuse on how these are transported into cells and metabolized by the brain, liver and other organs.

“My research has always been evolving. Each discovery leads to the next step, and we try to refine our approaches all the time,” she says.
Pang says that this evolution in her work is a result of her research philosophy. 

“Don’t always believe what you read in the literature. You should always question it and try to design and find experiments to prove or disprove it,” she says. “That will bring you to a new area, new data and a new direction.”

Pang encourages her research team take the same approach, and on top of all her research accomplishments, she is particularly proud of the graduate students she has mentored throughout her career. 

“Most of my graduate students are very accomplished and they motivate me in many respects to do better work,” she says. “I think I’ve become inspired by some of my post-docs and grad students to be better. And when I push them, they respond and become better scientists. For any professor, this is an excellent achievement."

By Eileen Hoftyzer

More News