Biomolecular Sciences Institute paves way for groundbreaking research

Biomolecular science is a fast-growing field focusing on the study and understanding of cellular processes at the molecular level. Research in this discipline has led to significant advances in cancer biology and some neurodegenerative disorders. Understanding the significance of this type of research, FIU established the Biomolecular Sciences Institute.

Biomolecular Sciences InstituteFIU’s Biomolecular Sciences Institute (BSI) is a multi-disciplinary consortium of the university’s finest research scientists. The institute was established as a source of academic mentorship for undergraduate and graduate students supported by a think-tank of cross-college and interdepartmental collaborations.

“The purpose of the institute is to enhance the intellectual environment and resources for biomolecular and biomedical research here at FIU,” said BSI Director Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh. “Through interdisciplinary collaborations, we hope to achieve increase in external funding for our projects as well as expand the scientific and translational impact of our research.”

Tse-Dinh’s research looks at the structure and function of DNA topoisomerases – enzymes that regulate the over winding or under winding of DNA – as the basis for discovery of antibacterial and anticancer drug leads from synthetic molecules and natural products. She is joined by a talented team of researchers studying biomacromolecular interactions, the development and identification of biomarkers and the application of nanotechnology to infectious diseases, cancer biology and neurodegenerative disorders.

One member of the BSI team is biochemistry professor Yuan Liu who received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study DNA damage and repair. Liu’s research looks at what leads to human neurodegenerative disease and what factors – other than genetics – cause DNA damage.

Also, BSI researcher Joong Ho Moon received the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award is one of NSF’s most prestigious awards. It supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of their institution’s mission. The award grants Moon $489,476 over a period of five years to study gene and drug delivery methods through particles without toxicity. This would dramatically improve the effectiveness of gene therapy methods and reduce the risks associated with that type of treatment.

Most recently, professor Fenfei Leng received a $317,194 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH to study transcription-coupled DNA supercoiling – a fundamental property of the DNA double helix – which plays many essential roles in the cell including DNA replication, recombination and gene expression. His work could lead to the development of new and more effective cancer treatment drugs and new ways to combat obesity.

BSI sponsors various lectures and research presentations throughout the year highlighting the institute’s latest research. They provide networking opportunities for students, faculty and the community as well as insight into the research of leading scientists, scholars and BSI faculty.

The BSI consortium includes the departments of chemistry and biochemistry, biological sciences, and physics within the College of Arts & Sciences as well as researchers in various departments of the College of Engineering & Computing, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work.

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