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Principal Investigator

Alexander Agoulnik, Ph.D., is the Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Prior to joining FIU HWCOM Dr. Agoulnik was a tenured associate professor at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, USA. He received his Ph.D. from the Russian Academy of Science at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk, Russia in 1987 and took postdoctoral training at the Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany. He joined the faculties of University of Tennessee, Memphis in 1992 and Baylor College of Medicine in 1995. Dr. Agoulnik has published more than 120 research papers and book chapters. He has trained numerous post-doctoral and medical fellows, residents, and students. Dr. A. Agoulnik is a Founding Director of Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences in HWCOM at FIU.

Lab members

Elena M. Kaftanovskaya, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Kaftanovskaya is an experienced investigator who came to FIU from Baylor College of Medicine. She is involved in several projects related to testing of new relaxin family receptor agonists in preclinical mouse models of human diseases. She oversees the histopathology equipment in the lab.

Courtney Myhr, M.S., Research Coordinator

Courtney Myhr is the Lab Manager for the A. Agoulnik laboratory. She a wealth of experience in various cellular and molecular methods and techniques and involved in characterization of relaxin receptors’ modulators.

Hooi Hooi Ng, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate

Dr. Ng is an American Heart Association (AHA) postdoctoral fellow. Her main research interests involve defining the cellular and molecular mechanisms in the initiation and progression of hyperglycemia-induced vascular calcification, and examining the therapeutic potential of relaxin-based therapies for the treatment of vascular diseases.

Maria Esteban Lopez, M.S., Graduate Student

Maria Esteban Lopez is a Ph.D. student in Dr. A. Agoulnik’s lab at FIU. She joined Dr. Dimitroff’s lab at FIU in December 2019. Her research is focused on an identification and analysis of first-in-class small molecule agonists of GPCR receptor for insulin-like3 peptide, RXFP2. She participates in SAR optimization of new compounds, examines the mode of interaction of small molecules with RXFP2, identifies the cellular signaling pathways activated by RXFP2 agonists, and studies the effects of these compounds on reproductive tissues and bone development in mouse models of human diseases. The project seeks to establish a new therapeutic target for osteoporosis treatment.