Career-Development Award Funds COPD Research

Published August 20, 2021

story based on news release by marcene robinson

A mentee of Sanjay Sethi, MD, has received an award that could ultimately help lower hospital readmission rates for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Sanjay Sethi, MD

Pharmacy researcher David M. Jacobs, PharmD, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has received a five-year Mentored Patient-Oriented Research (K23) Career Development Award.

With the $962,000 award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Jacobs will combine social information with rich clinical data to build predictive models that will be integrated into patient-centric interventions and tested in clinical practices.

If successful, the research will help clinicians provide individualized treatment at the transition from hospital to home for COPD patients, who experience high rates of early hospital readmission, says Jacobs.

Receiving Mentorship of Top COPD Expert

The Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award will provide Jacobs with guidance and resources to grow as an independent clinical investigator. 

Sethi, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, is serving as Jacobs’ primary mentor.

A nationally and internationally recognized expert in COPD, Sethi has fundamentally altered understanding of bacteria’s role in COPD and how the host responds to these infections. His lab was the first to demonstrate that bacterial infection is a major cause of exacerbations in COPD, the third-leading cause of death globally.

Subsequently, his findings that bacteria in the lower airways cause inflammation and are potentially harmful in stable COPD shifted another paradigm dramatically. Further, he demonstrated that changes in innate host responses, specifically in lung macrophages, make COPD patients more susceptible to infection.

In 2019 Sethi received the Stockton Kimball Award for outstanding scientific achievement and service. In 2020 Sethi received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. This award honors faculty members who make extraordinary contributions to their fields. 

For the past 25 years, Sethi has been highly successful in obtaining continuous funding for his research. In addition to intramural and industry-sponsored grants, he has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on extramural awards totaling more than $8 million from the NIH, the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense. 

Additionally, Sethi has served as a consultant on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease guidelines.

Readmission Rates Linked to Multiple Factors

“Each year, 7.8 million hospital-discharged patients are readmitted, costing the United States $17 billion,” says Jacobs.

“High readmission rates are linked to several quality of care and patient safety factors, such as medication-related problems, inaccurate information transfer, and lack of care coordination with primary care,” he says.

“Our focus will be to apply innovative informatic techniques to the development of risk prediction models for hospital readmissions that ultimately personalizes care management interventions.”

Although predictive models have been developed, their ability to gauge hospital readmissions remains poor, particularly for COPD patients, likely because detailed social information is absent from risk stratification tools, he says.

This may also explain why interventions at transition of care when COPD patients are discharged to home have not had much success in reducing readmission rates.

To determine social risk factors that drive hospital readmissions, Jacobs will conduct interviews with patients, their caregivers and clinicians.