Being on the forefront of cancer research is no small task, especially for a 25-year-old recent college graduate. But for Anna Olibarria-Moore, this is her calling and a challenge she’s embraced with open arms.
A research assistant with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in
Phoenix, Moore works in the hematological malignancies research unit, where she and her lab team conduct plasma cell research. Hematological malignancies are the types of cancer that affect blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes. As the three are intimately connected through the immune system, a disease affecting one of the three will often affect the others as well.The projected three-year study will generate genetic research, with the aim of drug development for plasma cell cancer.
Moore feels confident about the project.
“This research will be open to the public so that other researchers around the world can use the information and find candidate genes that may be new targets for drug development,” she says.
TGen is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on translational genomics research and developing earlier diagnostics and treatments. This type of research is a relatively new field employing advances arising from the Human Genome Project, and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases.
With a degree in life sciences and an emphasis in cellular biology and physiology, it’s no wonder Moore would choose such a career path. Beginning first at Glendale Community College, she moved to the university level by way of medical sciences.
Insight to a small universe
It was during her first internship at ASU West when she got a tiny glimpse into the world of genetic research. She was working on a project that looked at a receptor in the human body that turns certain genes on and off.
Moore accepted several internships after this, including a summer internship at Tufts University in Boston, where she spent three months in a breast cancer research lab. She was sure of her career path and eventually landed an internship position with TGEN that evolved into a part-time, and then full-time position upon graduation.
Moore has now called TGEN her home for a year and a half.
“At the end of the day, it feels good knowing that this research is going to help someone. And it’s even a greater feeling knowing that a researcher is going to look at this data and possibly find a gene related to this disease, ultimately creating a new drug for these patients.”
Moore’s love of education stems from her upbringing, where she says her family supported and emphasized the importance of education. Born in Phoenix and raised in Peoria, Moore comes from a family of seven children; she is second youngest. With her father graduating from ASU, her younger brother just recently graduating from college and two of her other siblings currently working on their degrees, Moore is proud of where her family background.
“As a young child and young adult, I didn’t have a strong influence around me for the sciences, however there was a strong emphasis placed on education. I also recognized, along with others, the lack of Hispanics in the research fields, leading me to where I’m at today.”
As for what the future holds for Moore, she says she loves research, but also holds another passion.
“I would like to eventually be an optometrist; however, I don’t think this research will stop there. Perhaps I’ll conduct research on genetics of eye diseases. I’m so interested in genomics and how it relates to diseases.”
When she’s not enveloped in her research, Moore says she enjoys spending time with her family. Recently married this past May to her childhood sweetheart Alex Moore, whom she’s known since she was 5, the two literally shared a “dream” wedding after winning the KTVK Channel 3 Dream Wedding Contest.
Moore looks forward to continuing to use her talents for the benefit of the community, and shares an inspirational message for all.
“Learn about yourself and be proud of the gifts you have. Create opportunities for yourself and seek success…if you don’t someone else will.”
Translational Genomics Research Institute
445 N. Fifth Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Toll-Free 1 (866) 370-8436