The University of Arizona Health Sciences Career Development Awards program recently selected Tobias Jakobi, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, as one of its five 2023 recipients.
“I am deeply honored and grateful to receive the prestigious Health Sciences Career Development Award, and to have been chosen from a group of such talented colleagues,” said Dr. Jakobi. “The Health Sciences CDA is very important to me, as it specifically supports researchers at a critical point in their career development.”
CDA scholars must complete an independent research project, which is expected to generate sufficient pilot findings to enable the submission of an NIH K-series or R01 grant (or equivalent) by the second year of the program. Each scholar also must choose a lead mentor, or mentors if the project is multidisciplinary.
Dr. Jakobi’s research focuses on circular RNAs or circRNA, which are a type of genetic material that can be found in human cells. His lab observed that levels of a specific circRNAs are higher in patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common type of treated heart arrhythmia.
“My lab will investigate the potential of this circRNA as a signature molecule, or a biomarker, which can be used to help physicians monitor the presence or progression of atrial fibrillation from a single blood sample,” explained Dr. Jakobi. “This new circRNA-based biomarker may provide us with a non-invasive and efficient way to detect atrial fibrillation early and potentially develop personalized therapies tailored to an individual’s unique genetic profile.”
Dr. Jakobi is mentored by Christopher Glembotski, PhD, the associate dean of research and director of the Translational Cardiovascular Research Center at the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. “Dr. Glembotski played an important role in my transition into cardiovascular research,” said Dr. Jakobi. “He has greatly helped me to integrate my computational and RNA biology expertise into the cardiac research community, and thus has played a key role in developing my career as well as my independent research program.”
“Dr. Jakobi’s unique combination of talents, including informatics, computer programming and cardiac biology set him up perfectly to pursue this exciting research,” Dr. Glembotski said. “He is a great asset to the university and has planned innovative, high-impact research.”
Dr. Glembotski said that the CDA award is very important because it “indicates that other scientists who have reviewed Dr. Jakobi’s work agree with me that his research is very exciting. Dr. Jakobi is a huge asset to the Translational Cardiovascular Research Center at the College of Medicine – Phoenix and beyond. In his short two years here, he has established numerous research collaborations in Phoenix and Tucson, and he generously gives his time to help guide us as we continue to grow the computational research infrastructure of the college.”
The CDA program was established by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences in 2014 to provide research training and funding for early-career faculty members and foster academic careers in clinical and translational research. Each year, the recipients of the two-year award receive 75% protected time for research, plus salary support and funding for research-related activities and travel.
Other recipients of the 2022 CDA are:
- Lauren Benton, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the College of Medicine – Tucson
- Kellen Chen, PhD, assistant research professor of surgery at the College of Medicine – Tucson
- Hongxu Ding, PhD, assistant professor of translational pharmacogenomics at the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy
- Bridget Murphy, DBH, MEd, assistant research professor of health promotion sciences at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health