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Departmental News

Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson II Endowed Professorship in Biomedical Research

 

Dr. Julius Jacobson and Joan Jacobson donated more than $1 million to establish the Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson II Endowed Professorship in Biomedical Research in 2004.

Dr. Jacobson (A/S '47), director emeritus of vascular surgery and Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, is widely renowned as the inventor of microsurgery, the technique that accounts for half of all neurosurgeries performed in the United States. True to his specialty, Jacobson has, over the years, honed a micro-description of the world-changing feat: "The teaching of the time was that you could not operate on blood vessels smaller than a certain size. I brought the microscope into the operating room." Jaunty modesty aside, his medical paper on microsurgery has been called the most important of the 20th century. The graduate of John Hopkins University credits his undergraduate degree at UT for launching what would be an illustrious future, saying, "If it weren't for UT, my career would have been different..

Dr. Richard Komuniecki, UT Distinguished University Professor of Biological Sciences, is the first holder of the Professorship. Dr. Komuniecki specializes in the identification of novel drug targets that can be exploited to control parasitic worms, or nematodes, that cause billions of dollars in economic damage annually to crops, livestock and humans.

“Parasitic nematodes [worms] infect humans, livestock and even plants, and in many cases, we still don’t have effective drugs to control these infections,” Komuniecki said. “More importantly, all of the chemicals that we have used in the past to control these parasites have recently been banned by the Environmental Protection Act, leaving local farmers almost defenseless.

“My lab is focused on understanding signaling in nematodes, especially those pathways that have the potential to be useful drug targets. The Jacobson Professorship will allow me to expand my basic research in this area and study a number of additional aspects of signaling nematodes,” said Komuniecki, who will hold the appointment for an initial three year term.

Komuniecki earned his bachelor's degree from Holy Cross College and his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Massachusetts. He was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral fellow in parasite biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame for three years before coming to The University of Toledo in 1980.

Since 1981, Komuniecki has received more than $5 million in continuous funding for his research from NIH and pharmaceutical companies. He has published more than 80 research articles in leading biochemistry, parasitology and genetics journals, has written six book chapters, and was selected as an editor for the book Molecular Biology and Biochemistry of Parasites (2002). He has twice served as chair of the NIH Study Section on Tropical Medicine and Parasitology and as an editor of Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology.

Inrecognition of his research, the American Society of Parasitologists has presented Komuniecki the Henry Baldwin Ward Medal (1995) and the Bueding and von Brand Award (1998) for contributions to parasite biochemistry.

Most recently, he was an invited keynote speaker at the 11th International Congress of Parasitology in Glasgow, Scotland.

Last Updated: 6/26/15