CTSI Awards Career Development Grants to Two Junior Investigators

The Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) has awarded grants to two Miller School researchers for its Mentored Translational Research Scholars Program (K12), which helps junior faculty become successful independent investigators.

Selected from 11 applicants, Alberto R. Ramos, M.D., M.S.P.H., assistant professor of clinical neurology and co-director of the Sleep Medicine Program at Anne Bates Leach Eye Hospital and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and Natasa Strbo, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, will each receive up to $100,000 per year for three years to pursue their projects.

As K12 scholars, Ramos and Strbo also will benefit from individualized career development plans, mentorship, educational programs, experiential training with established faculty researchers, and access to CTSI experts in epidemiology, research design, regulatory support, ethics and biostatistics.

Mentored by Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., Miller Professor, Chair of Neurology, Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders and co-investigator of the Miami CTSI, and Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology and Chief of the Clinical Translational Research Division, Ramos will use his grant to study obstructive sleep apnea. The study will focus on impaired blood flow to the brain and cerebral vasomotor reactivity in Hispanics, a population at increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea and stroke, the No. 1 cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in the nation.

“The K12 award will be the backbone for me to become an independent clinical investigator, lead a sleep research program and address gaps in our knowledge of the relationships between poor sleep health and cerebrovascular diseases, with a particular focus on health disparities,” Ramos said. “I hope the outcomes of this research lead to the development of a biomarker that will identify patients with sleep disorders at increased risk of stroke and provide early interventions to prevent cerebrovascular disease.”

Strbo’s study will examine a mouse model as a translational platform for the development of new HIV vaccine approaches. Her mentors are Eckhard R. Podack, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of microbiology and immunology, and Savita Pahwa, M.D., Director of the Miami Center for AIDS Research and professor of microbiology and immunology, pediatrics and medicine.

“Support from the Miami CTSI through the K12 program provides an excellent opportunity to pursue a career in HIV/AIDS research and gain the professional qualifications needed to transition into an independent investigator,” Strbo said. “Studying the correlates of protection in humanized mice will provide valuable information that can aid the development of an effective vaccine and take us closer to achieving the ultimate goal of all HIV research programs.”

The K12 program is managed by the Miami CTSI’s Research Education and Career Development program, which is directed by Gwendolyn Scott, M.D., professor of pediatrics and Director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology.

Funding was awarded to the applicants whose proposals had the best research plan, the highest potential for success, and met the Miami CTSI goals of improving the health of a diverse community and promoting excellence in interdisciplinary clinical and translational research.

The next request for applications will be announced later this fall. For more information about the K12 program, visit the Miami CTSI website.

The K12 program is supported by Grant Number 1KL2TR000461, Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute, from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

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