The Biomolecular Sciences Institute (BSI) was founded in 2014 to promote and facilitate collaborative interdisciplinary research in the biomolecular and biomedical arenas. Areas of research expertise include infectious diseases, cancer and neurological disorders. Current specific research themes include drug discovery, personalized predictors of wellness, better targeting medicines and control of infectious diseases including those that are mosquito-borne.
Please find below some of the areas of research, scientific inquiry and discovery that the BSI faculty are currently exploring:
Drug resistant bacterial infections have become a global health crisis creating the need for novel antibiotics. BSI faculty are conducting National Institutes of Health (NIH) 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 (HTS) 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.
Building a global fungal collection library at FIU generates the potential for the discovery of new drugs, an area which 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 5M global fungal species currently used to make a large percentage of existing drugs. The BSI library already has a collection of 8000 fungal species and plans to expand its collection.
A number of BSI faculty are developing novel biomaterials and biosensors that can be used to monitor tumor progression, genomic stability, cell stress response and cell-drug interactions. The goal is to develop biosensors that can be used to monitor predictive biomarkers for personal health/wellness or for use in point-of-care applications.
The BSI 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.
Due to its geographical location, 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.
BSI researchers believe they can eradicate prostate cancer that returns in patients who were treated by castration. By stopping DNA repair, normally a good process but with cancer it actually helps the bad 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.