Dr. Julio C. Rojas is an associate professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, Memory and Aging Center and UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. His research focuses on experimental therapeutics in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and development of fluid biomarkers in neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Rojas is a site PI for industry-sponsored phase 3 clinical trials of anti-amyloid immunotherapies in Alzheimer’s disease, including TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 2, testing donanemab in mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s dementia and the prevention study AHEAD, which tests lecanemab in cognitively healthy individuals at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Rojas has also participated as a site PI of anti-tau immunotherapies and co-led an investigator-initiated phase 1 study of transcranial photobiomodulation in biomarker-confirmed Alzheimer’s disease. He has 8 years of experience as a clinical trialist and has also been a sub-investigator in pioneering investigator-initiated clinical trials of progressive supranuclear palsy and frontotemporal dementia, as part of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center Clinical Trials Unit.
Dr. Rojas receives research support from the National Institutes of Aging to conduct research aiming at discovering novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in frontotemporal dementia. His research leverages the resources of ALLFTD, a multicenter observational research consortium for the longitudinal assessment of people with genetic and sporadic forms of frontotemporal dementia spectrum disorders, which is led by his mentor Adam Boxer. Dr. Rojas uses cutting-edge ultrasensitive technologies to interrogate the proteome of frontotemporal dementia patients in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. This effort supports the quest for a blood test for frontotemporal dementia that could support diagnosis, prognosis and tracking the effects of experimental therapies, when available. Dr. Rojas’ major contributions to the field of neurodegenerative biomarkers have consisted in describing the role of blood neurofilament light chain as a prognostic marker in frontotemporal spectrum disorders. This may lead to development of a relatively inexpensive blood test to identify people at short-term risk of developing symptoms of frontotemporal dementia or other dementias and that could be the best candidates to be enrolled in clinical trials.
Dr. Rojas co-chairs the UCSF Memory and Aging Center Behavioral Management Task Force, which aims at improving non-pharmacological management of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia, which are the major source of patient and caregiver distress. This task force pursues this goal through delivering clinical care, conducting research and promoting healthcare provider education on the topic. Dr. Rojas participates in UCSF committees on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He is a co-investigator in an NIH-funded project to leverage the resources of trusted organizations in the community (i.e., Alzheimer’s Association, National Association of Hispanic Nurses) to increase participation of the Hispanic community in cognitive health and dementia research.