Using Big Data to Target Gene Mutations in Cancer Tumor Cells

Dominos, the one in the middle is red!
UArizona Health Sciences

There are many potential causes of cancer, from food and the environment to trauma and infection. When it comes to genetics, there is one gene mutation that researchers have linked to more than 20% of lung cancers, 40% of colorectal cancers and 90% of pancreatic cancers. The gene in question, KRAS, is one of the most common “oncogenes,” mutated genes that have the potential to cause cancer.

Flinn Foundation funds Arizona research teams to drive discoveries into clinical settings

Picture of Pathogens
Flinn Foundation

Ten research teams from three Arizona institutions have been awarded $100,000 each from the Flinn Foundation Seed Grants to Promote Translational Research Program to help turn their findings into viable treatments and diagnostics.

Growing “mini organs” to study the immune system and cancer

Science Talks Podcast Episode 49 Featuring Dr. Martha Dua-Awereh
Dedicated to cancer research, Dr. Martha Dua-Awereh examines the interaction between our immune system and cancer cells in hopes of identifying better treatments.

Cancer is an incredibly complex disease. To better understand how it interacts with the human body, researchers in the lab grow organoids, miniature three-dimensional tissue cultures derived from stem cells. Amy Randall-Barber from the BIO5 Institute was joined on Science Talks by Dr. Martha Dua-Awereh who uses organoids to study colorectal and pancreatic cancer with the Alfred Bothwell lab in the Department of Immunobiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Tucson. Dr. Dua-Awereh earned her PhD from the Department of Systems Biology and Physiology at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine and was a 2023 BIO5 Postdoctoral fellow. She is the first in her family to live in Arizona, and additionally has several other firsts that are discussed in the interview.

As of the publication of this podcast and interview, Dr. Martha Dua-Awereh has taken a position as researcher at Avery Therapeutics, Inc. and Dr. Alfred Bothwell has left the University of Arizona. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

ARB: To get started, I have a couple of icebreaker questions. Question number one: What is your favorite place you’ve ever been to? 

My favorite place is Brooklyn, New York. And I will tell you why, soon. 


ARB: What is something that you've always wanted to do, but you've not done yet?  

I've always wanted to go to Ghana and Paris. My family is originally from Ghana, but I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. My mom wanted to go to Ghana with me, but we haven't had the time or money. Same for Paris, I want to go to Paris because it’s beautiful. Hopefully in the next couple of years, I'll be able to go and see both. 

ARB: Absolutely! 

You are the first in your family to live in Arizona – what brought you here? 

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, went to college in Philadelphia, then back to Brooklyn to finish another degree, and then decided to go to Cincinnati for graduate school.  

While I was there, my mentor, Dr. Yana Zavros, got offered a position at the University of Arizona. Generally, if you want to take a student with you to another institution you can, but you don't necessarily have to. But she decided to take me with her, and discussed with the program coordinator before she approached me and said, ‘Hi, I'm going to go’ and I said, ‘Sure!’  

So, I came here and virtually completed my degree. Afterwards, I decided to stay when I got offered a job. Dr. Zavros, as well as other mentors, such as Dr. Juanita Merchant, reached out to people and Dr. Bothwell contacted me before I even finished my degree. 


ARB: We’re glad you stayed! 

Can you tell us about your series of 'firsts’? I should disclose that I saw a video online while doing research for this podcast that you did for postdoctoral affairs here at the University of Arizona, where you mentioned these. 

I guess the number one ‘first’ was being born in the US. I'm the first in my family, since our family is from Ghana. There's an aspect that's embedded of being Ghanian in everything that we do, then being American, I add an extra layer to that. Through my eyes as a Ghanaian American, I see my family get exposed to many things, good or bad. 

Another first is leaving New York. My family is from Ghana and London, but the ones that come to New York tend to stay in New York and not branch out to the rest of the country. Since I've been to different places, I've established this culture, this pattern of traveling. My nieces and nephews have also done the same thing. In fact, my sister and my niece are coming to visit me in Arizona. They've never been but now they have a reason to. My nephew, when he was looking at colleges, looked outside of New York. That was something that impacted my family. Even my mother who never wanted to leave New York, is now in Arizona with me.  

In terms of education and pursuing a tertiary degree, I was first in my family to do that, but I'm not the last. My nieces and nephews have done it. It's become an option that once you finish high school, we should look at college and then look beyond that.  

My ‘firsts’ have established a legacy for my family, a way for them to use me as a troubleshooter, the fixer. I can give them information about things they should do, what can be improved on, and what they can add to their lives in ways they didn't expect.  

For me it's been an adventure. And for them, it's been a learning experience. 


ARB: That's great that you're inspiring your family and sharing your experiences. It's been brave of you to be the first for everything. 

I'm not someone who I would describe as adventurous or daring. But I am curious. I think my curiosity has led me to different paths in my life. 


ARB: That's what they say about scientists; curiosity is the biggest element to becoming a scientist.  

Let's talk about your research. You are in Dr. Bothwell's lab, can you tell us about the overall research goals and how it impacts human health? 

Our lab is mainly an immunology and cancer research lab. We look at ways the immune system interacts with not just cancer, but also other types of diseases. We look at infections, for example Leishmania infection, a parasitic disease found in parts of the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe.   

We also look at how the immune system interacts with cancer, mainly whether cancer can manipulate it. The reason we look at these things is to see if we can identify targets to improve upon therapies regarding infection or cancer. We look at not just the ways the immune system recognizes cancer and destroys it, but ways that the cancer can manipulate the immune system to hide and to mask its function. For example, cancer can trick the immune system into thinking that it is also an immune cell. 


ARB: I've heard about the immune system being used to fight cancer, but the way that you've just explained it was awesome, thank you. We need that research more than ever.  

What is your current project in your fellowship and in the lab? 

I mentioned immunology cancer research component, that's mainly my focus. I work with pancreatic and colorectal cancer. I'm looking to see whether there are factors that encourage these cancer cells to have more interactions with immune cells.  

There's this process called trogocytosis, which usually happens between immune cells where they recognize each other, and they take parts of the cell and make it their own without killing or destroying the other cell. Cancer can have this interaction with the immune cells, too. It's very unusual, but it can happen, and there might be some cancers where it happens more often. We're trying to figure out what factors contribute to that, what makes trogocytosis happen in one type of cancer, in one cell versus another.  

We're seeing whether these same factors allow cancer cells the ability to expand and grow, depending on the part of the body. They're localized, just like every part of your body, every organ, there's a different environment, different cells. And cancer can sometimes be the same way. But there's an extra step that allows cancer to transcend this, and we're investigating what factors make that switch in the cancer cell from being localized to spreading, or metastasizing. So, I also look at metastasis and whether there might be correlation between this ability for the cancer cell to mask itself from the immune system. 


ARB: Is that the work you are doing for the fellowship? 

The fellowship is providing me opportunities to run tests. Because of so many different factors involved with cancer and the immune system, we want to look exactly at which genes might be expressed, overregulated, and affected. I'm also able to use the fellowship to travel, go to conferences, and talk more about my science. It can be difficult to do, especially for me, since my research is not the easiest to understand. It's still complicated for me, and I work on it every single day! 

Being able to share is not only impactful to my field but also people in general, and the fellowship has allowed me to do that.  


ARB: Have you done any trips yet this year? 

Not yet, but I’ve planned two trips. 


ARB: Where are you going? 

The first trip is in Chicago and it’s for the American Association of Immunologists. I've never been and will hopefully be presenting my research. Then the second trip is for the American Physiological Society, which I am a member of. I've gone on different trips as a graduate student, but this is the first time I'll be going as a postdoc to talk about my research.  


ARB: That’s great, I hope you meet collaborators or pick up some great ideas. 

So, in a video that I saw of you, online that you did for the UArizona Postdoctoral Affairs Department here, you mentioned organoids. What is an organoid? 

An organoid is kind of what it sounds like, it's a mini organ. That's a very simple way of breaking it down. In cell culture, people take cells and plate them on dishes, and it’s a 2D system where cells are interacting. Whereas with organoids, you can look at a 3D interaction. It’s almost as if you are looking at a smaller version of what you would expect in your organs.  

Matrigel is one of the components we use to grow organoids, and it's supposed to be a matrix that mimics what you have in your body. So, you're not just getting the interactions of the cells, but how they interact with different factors, such as cell culture.  

So, organoids are just little versions of your organs, and they can be made up of different cells that make up your organs.  


ARB: Can you grow an organoid that is specific for the liver or pancreas? 

Exactly, yes, I work with colorectal cancer, so I will work with pancreas or colon organoids. I think people have been able to isolate or generate organoids from almost every organ. If not all, very close. 


ARB: How cool that scientists have been able to come so far with this research that helps humans and can hopefully cure cancer someday. 

Right. And how do we generate organoids? Well, that process is interesting.  

I've generated organoids from mouse organs and human organs. One way is through a tissue sample or biopsy, and another way is through stem cells. But what you need for the basic level of an organoid is a stem cell. Depending on what we add to the culture, the stem cell will mimic those same cells as your organ. We can break tissues down and grow organoids from it. 


ARB: How do you get human tissue? 

Great question. Here at the University of Arizona, there's a repository with a research core where patients who come in for procedures that require a biopsy can donate a sample. This repository will collect that tissue and preserve it. It's usually frozen tissue, sometimes it can be fresh, but we ask for samples of tissue to grow organoids. Along with the repository, there’s a research core that will take those same tissues, generate organoids and freeze them for when we need them. 

It's hard to get human tissues, because of course, you can’t go to everyone and say, ‘Hey, can have a piece of your tissue?’ So, we appreciate these contributions. Particularly from my research where I'm working on studies that directly apply to human treatments, and ideally working with human cells is great.  

With every sample, I am so appreciative, and it's made me look at science in a completely new and multifaceted way. 


ARB: How can people find out about donating? Or is it truly happenstance? 

There are a couple of ways. Sometimes you through a physician or scientist directly, especially if they are doing clinical trial or clinical study. They may collect those samples to be passed over to the laboratory. 

Another way is through collaborations with Banner Hospital and University of Arizona. I think there's a pathway set up where people in the research core are notified by physicians about a patient who is coming in for a procedure, so they can ask the patient beforehand.  

I think the best way is to work with the research core directly to make requests for different types of tissues from different populations. Because we also want to see whether there's difference between men and women, and I'm particularly interested in minority populations.  

I guess it's not as well advertised as I would hope it would be, but I think there's more awareness of how important it is. We have limitations of tests or exploring theories working with humans. This allows us to see whether a particular drug or chemotherapy works without putting a person through unnecessary trauma or burden. 


ARB: I think everybody can think of a person who has been affected by cancer. 

Initially, I wasn't sure I wanted to go into cancer. But my brother was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer a couple of years ago and passed away very suddenly. I think one of the issues that affects our family to this day is that he didn't want to tell us about it. And I think if he had known how much I was involved with cancer, maybe he would have felt more confident in talking to me, what therapies to explore, or how serious it is. In our family, there are members that weren't aware of how much it would affect his life and how quickly it would do so.  


ARB: It really rocked a lot of people’s worlds because it went so quickly. I’m sorry. 

Thank you. I have friends who are confused about their friends’ cancer and why they respond well to some therapies but not others.  

My goal is to figure out what factors might cause those differences so people can have a better understanding of how cancer affects your life and what we can do about it. 


ARB: My mom passed away from breast cancer about nine years ago. She had surgery and was cancer-free for four years. And they say there’s a five-year window, and in the fifth year, it came back as bone cancer and metastasized. We all wondered about the same things. Like, why did it come back? How come it couldn't stay away? Like, why didn't they detect it sooner? Just lots of questions and no answers. 

You touched on this a bit earlier when you mentioned a mentor who brought you here to Arizona. Do you have any influential mentors in your life, whether it's career or personal? 


There’s so many. The first person I always think about is my mom. She influences my personal and academic work, motivating and pushing me. My mom didn't have the chance to go to college, even though she wanted to. And she wanted to make sure that I had those opportunities.  

Even now, to this day, if I work too hard, she says, ‘Hey, take a break.” She reminds me to take care of myself, which I usually forget to do. 

And then, who I mentioned before, Dr. Zavros. She’s here at the University of Arizona still and it’s easy to pop in when she's available and say, ‘Hey, I have a question.’ And then there’s a senior scientist who works in the repository research core, Dr. Jayati Chakrabarti. I usually have questions about organoids both in terms of work and grants. And they remind me that my work is important and go and try different experiments.  

I have mentors outside the University of Arizona, which I think is important. One is Dr. Arnaldo Diaz Vasquez, the associate dean at the University of Texas Southwestern. And I met him when I was at the University of Pennsylvania for a summer program. He coordinated that program, and maintained a relationship with me so I could ask all kinds of questions. Should I present this poster? Should I talk to this person?  

And I’m continuing to get mentors. I work in Dr. Bothwell’s lab, and one of our next-door labs is Dr. Justin Wilson, and I can get the perspective of being a new faculty member from him. 


ARB: I've noticed how willing faculty are to answer questions since we give a lot of tours. And the undergraduates will ask how they can work in a lab. And my honest answer is just email them and they will email you back! 

Yes, I was there once. Asking as many people as you can for information really helps. And the University of Arizona excels at that. 


ARB: Right! So, what’s next for you? 

That's a great question. I’m hoping to finish my postdoc in the next couple of years. From there, I know I want to do cancer research. I'm not sure if I want to do it in academia right away, because there are things in government that I'm also interested in terms of policy.  

For a short while, I did have medical education, and I really did love seeing patients. There's a lot of pre-clinical research questions about human health or human conditions. And usually, I'm the one to answer those questions, and I’ve realized how important that is when it comes to science. So, I might even go back and pursue medicine to tie it all together. 

The next steps may be doing a bit more research or more education to do more research!  


ARB: Wow! Thank you again for coming to Science Talks and sharing your story. 

Women’s health, the microbiome and how bacteria can affect cancer

Science Talks Podcast Episode 48 Featuring Dr. Nicole Jimenez
Dr. Nicole Jimenez uses a microbiological lens to improve women’s health, studying bacterial vaginosis, gynecological cancers, and endometriosis.
BIO5 Institute

Unfortunately, many aspects of women’s health are underfunded and understudied. Better understanding women’s health conditions and microbiomes can help lead to better health outcomes and improve the quality of life. Amy Randall-Barber from the BIO5 Institute was joined on Science Talks by Dr. Nicole Jimenez, currently in the Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz lab, at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Phoenix with a focus on women’s health research. She received her doctorate from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and was awarded two postdoctoral fellowships in 2023, one from the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and the other from the BIO5 Institute. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


ARB: Before we get started, I’d like to ask a few icebreaker questions. What’s one of your nicknames? 

I don’t have a unique nickname, just Nikki.  

But I was thinking more about this. I play Dungeons and Dragons, and one of my character’s names is Sin Nombre, which means ‘without name’. And the funny thing is that my PI, Melissa, worked early in her career on a virus called the Sin Nombre virus. I recently found this out and thought it was so interesting and serendipitous! 


ARB: That’s too cool!  

What’s your hidden talent? 

I would say my hidden talent would be cooking, and more recently mixology. During the pandemic, I was working on my dissertation, but I also picked up mixology. More recently, I've been focusing on non-alcoholic cocktails. I have many different wood burning tips for smoking as well as different bitters. It's a really fun experience. With the no-alcohol craze coming around, you still want to socialize and create a beautiful experience to share with others. 

ARB: What’s your favorite drink to make? 

As far as an alcoholic drink is concerned, I would say a Negroni. That has Campari, gin and some other bitters in it. Then for non-alcoholic, I usually make a rose mule with rose syrup and ginger. 


ARB: The rose mule sounds delicious. If I come to Phoenix, you’ll have to make me one! 

Let’s get into your research. What is your current research and what got you interested in it? 

I was recruited to the University of Arizona to work on the microbiome. In my graduate career, I was working on the microbiome and its relationship to pregnancy and preterm birth. Here, I get to work on the microbiome, including rectal, vaginal, endometrial, and how it relates to gynecologic cancers as well as benign gynecologic conditions such as endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain.  

I got into this research because when I was picking my major at Arizona State University, I became a nutrition major since I wanted to see how environmental factors impact health. I learned about the gut microbiome, and it got me fascinated with how that impacted human health. And so, I switched my major to microbiology and stayed in this vein of research. 


ARB: I love to hear those kind of journey stories and what the pivotal moments are.  

Can you tell us about the overall research goals of your lab? 

The Herbst-Kralovetz lab focuses on women's health research. We incorporate metabolomics, microbiome, and immunoproteomics to better understand how certain conditions occur. We also think about better ways that we can modulate the microbiome to have better health outcomes.  

Right now, our focus is on gynecologic cancers. Mostly cervical cancer and endometrial cancer, as well as these benign gynecologic conditions. Some of them have similar characteristics to cancers such as adenomyosis — an overgrowth of cells in the muscles of the uterus — as well as endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain. 


ARB: Can you tell us about the most exciting part of your research and how it fits in to those overall goals? 

As a woman working in the women's health space every day, I discover something different. It took me researching in this area to learn about the different symptoms. The most exciting part is not just learning all that information, but also trying to create change in the management of those symptoms.  

We're creating early diagnostics. For example, it currently takes six to seven years for a patient to get diagnosed with endometriosis. And that's not acceptable. My social science background has helped me understand some of these discrepancies and why they're happening.  


ARB: How do they diagnose endometriosis? 

Usually it's through symptoms, MRIs or other diagnostics. To fully understand endometriosis, you have to have surgery or biopsy, which is really invasive. Our lab is focusing on other ways that we can diagnose sooner and less invasively.  


ARB: That would be great for all women. 

Can you talk more about the difference between your two fellowships? Are the projects for your postdoctoral fellowships the same or different? 

Both fellowships that I was awarded are on a particular bacterium called Atopobium vaginae, now called Fannyhessea vaginae. During my graduate school career, we identified that this one bacterium is three. 

However, not a lot of research has been done on those three. Are they different from one another? Are they similar? This particular bacterium has been associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV), increased inflammation, and more recently, endometrial and cervical cancer. So, you can see how that ties into our lab’s overall goals.  

My project is focusing on those three newly identified species in our clinical cohorts for cervical and endometrial cancer. I’m also looking at associations for different clinical factors, metabolic profiles or immunoproteomic profiles.  

Then we also have this sub-study of my postdoctoral work in the Herbst-Kralovetz lab focused on a 3D cell culture model. It looks similar to human tissue, and we can infect these cells with bacteria. Then, we look at how they change the immune and metabolomic environment. That gives us better understanding of host pathogen interactions, such as how those bacteria are potentially progressing cancer. 


ARB: Have you had any influential mentors in your personal life or educational career? 

Many of my mentors are so important. I think I had my first mentor when I was in high school. And then when I went to undergrad, I had a whole bunch of different mentors because I was part of this scholar program called Los Diablos where you're assigned a mentor for each year that you're in the undergrad program.  

Then during graduate school, I obtained even more mentors, because I was part of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program and prep programs funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  

Currently, through the BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship, I created a mentorship committee where I have mentors in Tucson and Phoenix who are guiding me not only on my project, but also on career advice. Right now, as a postdoc, I’m wondering, “Where am I going next? How do I get there? What advice do they have that made them successful?”  

Because giving back to the community is important to me, I’m currently mentoring students in our lab, which is predominantly 90% women.  

I want to get more women interested in science and women's health, which tends to be underfunded and under researched. So, I’m involved with the WISE program, the Women in Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona as well as the Los Diablos program. Now instead of just being a mentee, I'm a mentor. 


ARB: That’s full circle! Thank you for all your mentorship.  

What’s next for you? Do you tend to live in the moment or have a big plan? 

I think it takes a bit of both to be successful in academia and in science. For me, I like to plan out major goals and how I can get there. But you also have to be flexible. Your experiment might not go right, or a grant opportunity might just pop up and you have to quickly apply for it.  

My next step is to work towards a K-99 grant, so that it can transition me from my postdoc position to an academic professorship position. I'm working on a few other grants now, too, and our lab is working on publishing many, many manuscripts.  


ARB: We will definitely be on the lookout for those papers. Thank you again for joining us and sharing your story. 

BIO5 Institute Expands its Innovative Biosciences Research Model to Phoenix

Two women holding food and drink talking. A sign with the BIO5 Institute KEYS Research Internship is in the background.
With its focus on strengthening translational research, fostering collaborative projects and training the next generation of scientists, the BIO5 Institute aims to leverage its resources to advance interdisciplinary bioscience research and increase industry connections in Phoenix.
Caroline Mosley, BIO5 Institute

The BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona is set to embark on a groundbreaking journey by officially expanding its footprint to Phoenix. This move marks a significant step in fostering collaborative biosciences research across Arizona and beyond. 

“The vision for the BIO5 Institute in Phoenix is to become a catalyzing force for interdisciplinary biosciences research, magnifying connections between Phoenix-based and Tucson-based BIO5 members, utilizing BIO5 resources, and integrating with the larger Arizona biosciences community,” said Jennifer Barton, BIO5 Institute director. 

While the BIO5 Institute already has over a dozen faculty members in Phoenix, the formal expansion to Phoenix is not just a geographical milestone, but a testament to the institute's dedication to advancing biosciences research through collaboration, innovation, and education. 

An open house mixer on November 13 in Phoenix officially launched the expansion by welcoming over 60 members of the UArizona community along with industry professionals. To forge strong relationships with both faculty and the biosciences industry, the BIO5 Institute hired a strategic engagement coordinator, Marissa Starks-Bahn, earlier this year who will be housed at the UArizona Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building. 

“Our goal is to grow our BIO5 membership in Phoenix while providing the same level of services a Tucson member may receive. In addition, we want to play a larger role in connecting our existing Phoenix and Tucson BIO5 members with UArizona resources as well as industry expertise,” said Barton. “We will also be able to better support UArizona Phoenix-based initiatives such as the Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies (CAMI) and educational program expansion.” 

Increasing opportunities for translational research 

Strengthening and expanding translational research is a key initiative for the BIO5 Insitute, aligning with the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF) funding that helped launch the institute over 20 years ago. This special investment in higher education by Arizona voters is intended to expand major efforts in biomedicine and biotechnology that will provide a return on investment to the people of Arizona. 

A BIO5 member since 2017, Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz and her lab aim to positively impact women’s health by conducting biomedical research with a high translational value in a clinical setting.  

Woman with blonde hair and a dark and white dress stands with a hand on her hip while other women work in the lab behind her
Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz has been a BIO5 member for over six years and directs a program focused on women's health at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

One current project in the Herbst-Kralovetz lab is endometrial cancer, the 4th most common cancer in women, that can only be diagnosed through painful and invasive procedures.  

Rising obesity rates and an aging female population, two main risk factors, are causing increasing rates of endometrial cancer, particularly in Arizona. But obtaining funding can be difficult for research that isn’t focused on pregnancy and childbirth. 

“Visibility is key for increasing awareness about gaps in women’s health research, particularly aging and menopause, two topics that are understudied,” said Herbst-Kralovetz, a professor in the Departments of Basic Medical Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the Women's Health Microbiome Initiative at the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. "A few years ago, I accompanied Jennifer Barton to the governor’s office to ask for additional funding and support for the BIO5 Institute. That was a great opportunity to discuss the needs in women’s health research here in Arizona and why it needs to be prioritized in terms of funding.” 

She hopes the expansion of the BIO5 Institute’s footprint will lead to more opportunities for her to discuss her research with government officials as well as raising awareness of women’s health conditions within the Phoenix community. 

Jumpstarting critical research and training the next generation 

Another of the BIO5 Institute's key initiatives is providing its faculty members with opportunities for seed grant funding. These smaller grants are crucial support for galvanizing scientific projects that can lead to larger grants and more long-term stability for interdisciplinary research. This strategic approach has proven to be a catalyst for innovation and propelled the institute to the forefront of biosciences research. 

Taben Hale, a professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, joined the BIO5 Institute in 2023. She studies the causes and consequences of high blood pressure to identify novel treatment strategies to allow people to live longer and healthier lives. 

Woman with a dark hair in a bun looks into a microscope as an older woman looks on
Taben Hale has been with the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix for over 15 years, but as a more recent member of the BIO5 Institute, she's interested to look into funding focused on jumpstarting collaborative projects.

“I’m excited to bridge disciplines and tap more broadly into academic and industry connections as a BIO5 member,” said Hale. “Opportunities to get seed grants are critical for stimulating those collaborative projects and generating the preliminary data that is necessary to then obtain federal funding.” 

Furthermore, the BIO5 Institute is committed to shaping the future workforce of scientists through programs like the KEYS Research Internship, the BIO5 Institute’s flagship summer internship program for high school students interested in developing STEM skills under the mentorship of UArizona scientists. Plans to integrate KEYS in Phoenix are already being discussed. 

Another way to prepare the future workforce is providing financial support and mentorship for up-and-coming researchers. Now in its fifth year, the BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship is an internal funding mechanism for postdoctoral researchers engaged in research projects aligned with the institute’s mission. The fellowship has already supported several outstanding postdoctoral fellows in Phoenix, 2023 fellow Nicole Jimenez and 2022 fellow Erik Blackwood, with hopes to support more.   

All these initiatives not only nurture emerging talent but also contribute to the institute's overarching goal of advancing biosciences research in Tucson, Phoenix and beyond. 

Dr. Rachna Shroff Selected to Lead Hematology And Oncology Division

Dr. Rachna Shroff
UA College of Medicine

After an extensive national search, Rachna T. Shroff, MD, MS, FASCO, has been chosen as the new chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. She has served as the interim division chief since February 2022.

Artists And Researchers Unveil Translational Art that Showcases Medical Research

The History of Bioscience Art Piece
UAZ Med Phoenix

So much of scientific research is visual, but it is often difficult to convey the meaning of the images to a broad audience. To help conceptualize scientific discovery, teams of local artists and researchers created original pieces, which premiered at the second Artist + Researcher Exhibition.