Two Junior Investigators Awarded CTSI Career Development Grants

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

Selected from 16 applicants, Ronan Swords, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, and Mark Stoutenberg, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., research assistant professor of public health sciences, will each receive up to three years of renewable annual funds, including 75 percent salary support for protected research time, $30,000 for research supplies and funds for research-related travel.

As K12 scholars, Swords and Stoutenberg 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 Arthur Zelent, Ph.D., professor of medicine and a member of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Stephen Nimer, M.D., professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology and Director of Sylvester, Swords will use his grant to study the novel use of a combination vitamin A and anti-depressant drug therapy for a non-chemotherapeutic approach to treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The focus on AML is critical because myeloid blood cancers are fatal for most patients and is particularly relevant given the prevalence of AML in the Hispanic community.

“Regulatory approval of new drugs can take up to 10 years, which is not acceptable with patients who have a rapidly fatal disease such as AML,” Swords said. “This project is significant because we have identified two oral agents that are inexpensive, effective and already approved for other indications. Our hope is that through re-purposing these readily available agents, we can rapidly improve the lives of patients with terminal AML.”

Stoutenberg’s study will look at culturally adapting and enhancing, through text messaging, a lifestyle modification program focusing on physical activity and healthy eating for Hispanics in a community setting. Lifestyle modification programs have been shown to significantly reduce body weight, increase physical activity levels and improve dietary habits. Stoutenberg’s primary mentor is Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., Miller Professor of Public Health Sciences and Director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health.

“Given the increasing levels of chronic diseases, accompanied by the spiraling costs of healthcare associated with these conditions, prevention strategies implemented at the community level have the potential to improve health and quality of life and reduce medication dependence, cost and burden of disease,” Stoutenberg said. “This award will provide me with the ability to implement programs focused on chronic disease and obesity prevention and also will allow me to further develop cultural sensitivity in working with Hispanic communities in South Florida.”

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 who demonstrated exceptional promise as translational scientists, whose proposals had the best research plan, and met the Miami CTSI goals of addressing health disparities, improving the health of minority and underserved populations, and transforming the institution.

The K12 program is supported by Grant Number KL2TR000461, 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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