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FIU chemist, institute director joins Florida academy

FIU chemist, institute director joins Florida academy

January 26, 2022 at 10:13am

One of FIU’s top biochemists on a mission to find treatments for diseases — from COVID-19 to cancer — has been named a member of the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida.

Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh, director of FIU’s Biomolecular Sciences Institute, was inducted into the academy for her groundbreaking biomedical and biomolecular research.

“It's a great honor to be included in the company of members who have made major achievements in science, engineering and medicine,” Tse-Dinh said. “I look forward to identifying opportunities for collaborations and partnerships in our efforts to meet the challenges we face at the state and global levels.”

Tse-Dinh studies topoisomerases, enzymes that regulate the winding of the DNA helix. Her work focuses on the discovery of antibacterial and anticancer drug leads from synthetic molecules and natural products. During the pandemic, it also took on special signification. 

That’s because a specific topoisomerases — called topoisomerase III-ß (TOP3B) — was identified as an enzyme coronaviruses require to replicate and spread infection in a person. Tse-Dinh collaborated with researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the National Cancer Institute to find ways to block this enzyme in an effort to slow the spread of infection of COVID-19.

Last year, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of NIH awarded Tse-Dinh $1.6 million in support of this work — marking the ninth time Tse-Dinh has received a grant award from NIH to conduct her research on topoisomerases.

Founded in 2018, Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida is committed to addressing key issues and challenges impacting Florida from the environment, sustainable energy, STEM education, healthcare and more. The academy provides expert advice and can help shape sound policies, inform public opinion and advance developments in science, engineering and medicine.

Other members of the academy from FIU include: FIU Provost Kenneth G. Furton; Evelyn Gaiser, the Endowed George Barley Eminent Scholars Chair and aquatic ecologist in the FIU Institute of Environment; Tomás R. Guilarte, dean of FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, and Mike Heithaus, dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. Heithaus also serves on the academy’s inaugural board of directors.