Genes and Disease

Research in this cluster focuses on:

  • Pathogen adaptations
  • Gene function
  • Chromosome structure (anti-cancer agents)

Survival and growth of the pathogens in hosts requires adaptation to stress and environment through modulation of the genomic transcription profile and acquisition of resistance. Viability and proliferation of cancer cells following radiation and chemotherapy treatment also requires stress response and DNA repair functions.

Experimental and computational studies of the biomolecular pathways for signaling and response can provide new mechanistic insights and identify targets for development of novel treatment for superbugs and cancer. Host factor hijacked for replication of viruses including COVID-19 and Dengue is a target for discovery of broad spectrum antiviral treatment. Nanotechnology is utilized for deliver drugs to the required site of action to enhance selectivity and overcome resistance.


  • Biospecimen collection

    The Biomolecular Sciences Institute has started a human subject Biospecimen Collection program at FIU to be used for study of predictive biomarkers in South Florida population groups. Initial samples that have been collected are glioblastoma tumors (an aggressive brain cancer) removed during surgery at the Miami Neuroscience Center at Larkin Hospital. A BSI member is also coordinating the collection and research of tumor samples received from surgeries at Baptist Health South Florida. A philanthropic gift has provided the funding for a pilot study on predictive biomarkers for stratifying individual glioblastoma chemotherapy. Research related to predictive biomarkers for tumor progression and novel chemotherapy regimens has the potential to greatly improve treatment outcomes for local cancer patients.

  • Drug-resistant bacterial infections

    Drug-resistant bacterial infections have become a global health crisis, fueling a need for novel antibiotics. BSI faculty are conducting National Institutes of Health funded research on antibacterial drug discovery. They are doing research on drug targets in emerging infectious agents (such as the Ebola virus) as well as on computational modeling and drug design using high-throughput virtual drug screening with molecular docking. High Throughput Screening is a drug-discovery process widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. It leverages automation to quickly assay the biological or biochemical activity of a large number of drug-like compounds. BSI has patents pending or awarded relevant for new antibiotic discovery to treat multi-drug resistant bacteria.

  • Global fungal collection library

    Building a global fungal collection library at FIU generates the potential for the discovery of new drugs, an area that remains largely untapped, especially for novel antibiotics. There is a critical need to find drugs that will treat resistant infections and maximize the chances of success where current antibiotics no longer work. Scientists have isolated only a very small subset of the 5 million global fungal species; these are currently used to make a large percentage of existing drugs. The BSI library has a collection of 8,000 fungal species and plans to expand its collection.

  • Neurodegenerative diseases

    Afflictions like Huntington's disease and Friedreich's ataxia cause serious symptoms that disrupt thousands of people's lives. Because these diseases stem from DNA problems, they cannot be prevented and have proven difficult to study and treat. Our researchers are fighting back by finding ways to test potential treatments for these neurodegenerative diseases, in the hopes of identifying existing drugs that could help and evaluating new therapies.

    More About Our Neurodegenerative Diseases Research 

  • Mosquitoes and disease transmission

    South Florida is vulnerable to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. BSI faculty are world-recognized leaders in the study of hormonal systems that regulate mosquito reproduction, and for developing molecular tools for the investigation of mosquito host-seeking. Their government-funded research can potentially lead to novel molecular approaches for controlling the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

    Other BSI faculty research looks at blocking malaria transmission by novel molecules that act on the mosquito vector.

  • Prostate cancer

    BSI researchers believe they can eradicate prostate cancer that returns in patients who have been treated by castration. By stopping DNA repair, a normally beneficial process that helps cancerous cells thrive, they can inhibit the tumor growth and the damage built up in the cancer cells, causing them to die and essentially killing the prostate cancer. Castration-resistant prostate cancer has no known cure, with 75 percent of patients dying within five years of onset. According to the researchers, it is likely that the compounds identified in this study may also be effective in curing other cancers and relieving the symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

COVID-19 Research

We are collaborating with scientists across the country to search for potential treatments for the novel coronavirus.