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Translational Molecular Discoveries

Translational Molecular Discoveries (TMD), an FIU Emerging Preeminent Program, will integrate the basic and applied research efforts of faculty members across disciplines for the benefit of human health and wellness.

The TMD program will include focus areas on:

  • Drug discovery to meet urgent needs for new therapies against cancer, drug-resistant infection and neurodegenerative diseases;
  • Predictive biomarkers for personalized medicine & wellness; and
  • Control of mosquito-borne diseases by novel molecular approaches.

Research Prowess

Program faculty have $24 million in active external research funding. In addition to federal grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Defense (DOD), faculty have received research support from private donors and from organizations including the Community Foundation of Broward, Michael J. Fox Foundation, American Lung Association and others.

Distinguished Faculty

Many TMD faculty are internationally recognized leaders in their fields. They serve as journal editors or on editorial boards and are invited to serve on NIH, NSF and DOD grant review panels in recognition of their scientific achievements and expertise. Collaborations with NIH scientists and clinicians are part of the translational research and drug discovery focus of TMD.  

Training New Scientists

Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows are receiving research training from TMD faculty members, learning to use state-of-the-art mass spectrometry, animal models, bioinformatics and computational biology. Recent Ph.D. graduates have job placements in diverse career paths, including government, industry and academic positions. TMD faculty have coauthored more than 180 publications with students.

Engaging the Community

Our faculty have been serving as mentors for high school students each summer, providing a vigorous research experience. They host visiting scientists and exchange students from all corners of the world. For clinical and translational applications, TMD collaborates with the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), the NIH Clinical Center, the Miami Cancer Institute, the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Miami Neuroscience Center at Larkin.

Global Impact

Our interdisciplinary researchers are working toward solutions to critical health challenges facing South Floridians and people around the world.

  • Antibacterial Drug Discovery

    Existing and emerging "superbugs" resistant to present-day antibiotics have become a global health crisis. The TMD has a core group represented by the Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh, Fenfei Leng, and Kalai Mathee conducting NIH-funded research on antibacterial drug discovery. These TMD investigators have pending and awarded patents relevant to new antibiotic discovery to treat multi-drug-resistant bacteria. One TMD faculty member, Prem Chapagain, is conducting research on infectious agents such as Ebola virus, as well as on computational drug design and screening by high-throughput molecular docking.

  • Predictive Biomarkers for Health and Wellness

    A number of TMD faculty are developing novel biomaterials and biosensors that can be used to monitor stress response, tumor progression and cell-drug interactions. These research efforts can lead to biosensors that will be used to monitor predictive biomarkers for personal health and wellness. Shekhar Bhansali is developing a test for real-time detection of cortisol, a stress hormone. He collaborates with Joong-ho Moon, a polymer chemist who can design the required biomaterials. Other TMD faculty with expertise in biomaterials and biosensor development include Jin He, Konstantinos Kavallieratos, Raphael Raptis and Yi Xiao.

  • Biospecimen Collection

    FIU faculty have started a human subject biospecimen collection program to be used for study of predictive biomarkers in South Florida population groups. Initial samples are glioblastoma tumors removed during surgery at the Miami Neuroscience Center at Larkin Hospital. Jeremy Chambers is leading a project focused on tumor specimens collected from surgery at Baptist Health South Florida. Research by TMD faculty related to predictive biomarkers for tumor progression and novel chemotherapy regimens has the potential of greatly improving treatment outcomes for South Florida cancer patients.

  • Health Promotion in Florida

    TMD faculty participant Tami Thomas is chairing the "Building Better Health for Florida Families" Advisory Board, which oversees health promotion efforts across Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee County and coordinates efforts by various entities such as FIU's Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences (NWCNHS), the Florida Department of Health and the Miami-Dade County Commission. School and community leaders and healthcare providers are included on the board. Initial efforts have focused on vaccination and cancer prevention. Tami Thomas will be teaming with Yuan Liu, Kalai Mathee and Giri Narasimhan to investigate DNA damage/repair and oral microbiomes as predictive biomarkers for HPV-associated cancer risks.

  • Fighting Mosquito-Borne Diseases

    The Miami area may be especially vulnerable to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. TMD's Fernando Noriega is a world-recognized leader in the study of the hormonal systems that regulate mosquito reproduction. Matthew DeGennaro is developing molecular tools for the investigation of mosquito host detection. Laura Serbus is investigating the influence of symbiotic bacteria on viral populations. Jun Li is discovering novel vaccines and small molecules that can block malaria transmission. Their NSF- and NIH-funded research is leading to novel molecular approaches for controlling the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Interdisciplinary Team

Faculty in the Translational Molecular Discoveries program include current Biomolecular Sciences Institute (BSI) members from the College of Arts, Sciences and Education (CASE); the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM); the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work (RSCPHSW); and the College of Engineering & Computing (CEC). In addition, the program partners with FIU's Advanced Mass Spectrometry Facility (AMSF), the International Center for Tropical Botany (ICTB)/FIU Tropics, and the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences (NWCNHS).

  • Core Collaborating FIU Faculty

    Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH; Director, BSI, CASE

    Francisco Fernandez-Lima, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH; Director, AMSF, CASE

    Alejandro Barbieri, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, SEAS, CASE

    Matthew DeGennaro, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, SEAS, CASE

    Lidia Kos, Professor, Biological Sciences, SEAS, CASE; Associate Dean, University Graduate School; Associate Vice President, Research and Economic Development

    Jun Li, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, SEAS, CASE

    Fernando Noriega, Professor, Biological Sciences, SEAS, CASE

    Laura Serbus, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, SEAS, CASE

    Jessica Stiltberg-Liberles, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, SEAS, CASE

    Konstantinos Kavallieratos, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH, CASE

    Fenfei Leng, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH, CASE

    Yuan Liu, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH, CASE

    Jaroslava Miksovska, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH, CASE

    Joong-ho Moon, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH, CASE

    Raphael Raptis, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH, CASE

    Yi Xiao, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, SISH, CASE

    Prem Chapagain, Associate Professor, Physics, SISH, CASE

    Jin He, Associate Professor, Physics, SISH, CASE

    Sharan Ramaswamy, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering, CEC

    Joshua Hutcheson, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering, CEC

    Shekhar Bhansali, Chair, Electrical and Computing Engineering, CEC

    Giri Narasimhan, Professor, School of Computing & Information Sciences, CEC

    Irina Agoulnik, Associate Professor, Cellular Biology and Pharmacology, HWCOM

    Alexander Agoulnik, Professor, Human and Molecular Genetics, HWCOM

    Kalai Mathee, Professor, Human and Molecular Genetics, HWCOM

    Helen Tempest, Associate Professor, Human and Molecular Genetics, HWCOM

    Tami Thomas, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, NWCNHS

    Alicia Montalvo, Assistant Professor, Athletic Training Program, NWCNHS

    Neera Bhansali, Research Assistant Professor, Executive Director of Biomedical Informatics, RSCPHSW

    Marcus S. Cooke, Chair, Environmental and Occupational Health, RSCPHSW

    Jeremy Chambers, Assistant Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health, RSCPHSW