UMSL alum Toni Hayes uses her passion for science to make a difference for people with rare diseases

by | Jan 3, 2024

Now living in Pepperell, Massachusetts, she works as principal scientist of toxicology for preclinical drug development at Apellis Pharmaceuticals.
Toni Hayes

Toni Hayes is the principal scientist of toxicology for preclinical drug development at Apellis Pharmaceuticals. (Photo courtesy of Toni Hayes)

Toni Hayes, BS ‘00

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Current Location: Pepperell, Massachusetts

Occupation: Principal Scientist of Toxicology for Preclinical Drug Development at Apellis Pharmaceuticals

Toni Hayes is fulfilling her dream of making a difference through her passion for science. After serving in the United States Marine Corps, Hayes knew she wanted to obtain a four-year degree and ultimately chose UMSL because it was a flexible option that would allow her to continue working while pursuing her interest in biology. She had her sights set on a career working in the sciences, either in academia or industry, and has certainly accomplished that. After completing her bachelor’s at UMSL in 2000, Hayes went on to earn her master’s in toxicology from Northeastern University in 2006. She is a 2015 diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and a 2022 diplomate of the Safety Pharmacology Society and currently works at Apellis Pharmaceuticals as principal scientist of toxicology for preclinical drug development. She looks back fondly on her time at UMSL, giving a lot of credit to former professor Godfrey Bourne. “He was so inspiring and motivating,” she says. “He really encouraged me when I didn’t think I would make it through the program, and I’m forever grateful for that.”

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were a student?

As an undergraduate, I always approached college and my time at UMSL as an acute exercise because I juggled working full-time with academics, and time was always a challenge. I think as a student, especially a nontraditional student, I always felt like I had to hurry … “catch up!” Now I know that I was exactly where I needed to be to get where I am now. I didn’t need to catch up to anyone or anything. I’d love to go back in time and enjoy the process, take my time, get better grades, make more friends, join more clubs.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that the work I do every day has the ultimate goal of bringing therapies to people suffering from rare diseases.

How did your time at UMSL prepare you to be a leader?

The degree I earned from UMSL was my pivot toward the kind of work that I was really passionate about doing. It’s enabled me to be a leader within the STEM community and a voice for minorities and women who are underrepresented in the sciences in general.

This story was originally published in the fall 2023 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email

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