HWCOM at FIU conducts basic, applied, translational, clinical, and interdisciplinary research that leverages South Florida’s diverse demographics, improves the health of the South Florida community, and aligns with national global health trends.
The college’s research initiatives aim to discover and advance medically relevant knowledge to improve health outcomes in the community, region, nation, and world. Research interests are based on the expertise of the faculty and needs identified in the local community.
The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health (PBH), with funding from the Health Foundation of South Florida, is integrating behavioral health and primary care through a registry that uses a business intelligence tool that integrates data, tracks patient progress, and facilitates interaction between psychiatrists, clinical therapists, and primary care physicians.
PBH psychiatry faculty are currently conducting clinical translational research on suicide and depression. Malek Adjoudi, PhD, and PBH faculty are conducting a clinical trial that uses rTMS for depression, and Eduardo Camps-Romero, MD, leads a naturalistic field evaluation of a summer program for at-risk youth.
PBH faculty are additionally active in educational research, conducting studies on exploring medical students’ choice of psychiatry as a career and the FIU Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training fellowship.
Environmental Science and Toxicology
Arsenic, a human carcinogen, ranks first on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list of hazardous substances. Research conducted in the college of medicine focuses on the effects of arsenic detoxification mechanisms on environmental health, under the direction of Distinguished Professor and NIH MERIT awardee Barry Rosen, PhD.
Rosen is supported by external funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Yoshinaga’s research program is currently co-supported by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Bioscience and the Division of Chemistry of the National Science Foundation.
Rosen and Yoshinaga have collaborated extensively with researchers in the FIU departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the FIU College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, the FIU College of Engineering and Computing; and with researchers worldwide. Most recently, they were part of an international team to discover a novel arsenic-based broad-spectrum antibiotic, arsinothricin.
Genomic and Molecular Medicine
Genetic research conducted at HWCOM aims to reveal underlying genetic determinants of human diseases and to identify potential therapeutic targets for effective treatments. The department is led by Alexander I. Agoulnik, PhD, who's research is in the area of relaxin family peptide hormones and their G protein-coupled receptors.
The areas of interest are diseases associated with fibrosis, cardiovascular abnormalities, metabolic diseases, cancers, male infertility, and the new approaches in genomic data of bacterial microbiome in developing novel antibiotics.
These studies are conducted in state-of-the art laboratories and involve various collaborations with researchers from other HWCOM departments, FIU colleges, as well as local, national and international research institutions and biotech companies.
Immunology and Nano-Medicine
Research conducted in the Department of Immunology and NanoMedicine and the Institute of NeuroImmune Pharmacology is led by Distinguished Professor Madhavan Nair, PhD. Nair and his team of researchers have over $20 million in NIH, Florida Department of Health, and Department of Defense funded grants which are focused on HIV, neuro-AIDS, substance abuse, nanotechnology delivery systems, pathophysiological mechanisms of lung comorbidities in smokers, asthma ,COPD, role of autophagy in Neuro-AIDS, AD and Zika.
The team of researchers at the Department of Immunology and Nano-Medicine are also developing a cutting edge and innovative technology that combines CRISPR cas9-gRNA gene editing technology with target-specific drug delivery and controlled release of therapeutic cargo. Results of these research may be used to treat and eliminate latent HIV infection, drug addiction, aging, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other central nervous system pathologies.
The department holds 15 US patents which will contribute to the growth and continuation of innovative research within the field of basic and translational medicine.
Social Determinants of Health Research
Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) comprise the social and structural ecology in which we live, grow, work, and age. The Green Family Foundation Neighborhood Health Education Learning Program (NeighborhoodHELP) at HWCOM incorporates service-learning, population health, and research centered on the construct of “household-centered care.”
An approach to the delivery of health services, household-centered care emphasizes interprofessional collaboration and the integration of primary care, behavioral health, and social services to improve the health outcomes of underserved households in Miami-Dade County.
David Brown, MD, serves as the lead for the initiative. He had a major role in building NeighborhoodHELP and is one of the leaders of the AAMC Core EPA Pilot, where he has become internationally recognized for his expertise in interprofessional collaboration and entrustment.
NeighborhoodHELP provides a multi-level social, behavioral, and clinical community intervention infrastructure designed to prepare medical, nursing, social work, and physician assistant students for practice, while improving social and health outcomes for participating households. This environment also provides an innovative community infrastructure for population health research incorporating the SDOH.
HWCOM faculty members also conduct health disparities research, a topic closely linked to SDOH, through the HWCOM medical student Research Scholarship Course.
The newly-founded Translational Glycobiology Institute at Florida International University (TGIF) centers on research to improve human health and disease through the knowledge of sugars. Glycobiology, the study of sugars or ‘glycans’, is a rapidly growing area of science due to evolving theories that glycans participate in virtually all aspects of biology, health and disease. The TGIF is strategically positioned to lead research efforts requiring the necessary knowledge and analytical tools for translating a glycobiological observation in the laboratory to clinical practice. Current research efforts focus on the discovery of glycans driving cancer progression and immune system function.
Other more translational research efforts concentrate on the development of innovative glycobiological treatments for cancer and inflammatory/musculoskeletal degenerative diseases and of new glycome-based markers of cancer progression or immune competence.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded multi-year grants to TGIF founding investigators Charles Dimitroff, PhD, Robert Sackstein, MD, PhD, to study the role of glycans in cancer development. We expect these research efforts to rapidly advance basic glycobiology knowledge in the areas of leukemogenesis, melanoma metastasis, and breast/ovarian cancer metastasis to improve clinical care. The TGIF has two of only ten funded tumor glycomics laboratories under the NCI Alliance of Glycobiologists: Tumor Glycomics Laboratories. The TGIF is now poised to become a national leader in developing new glycan biomarkers of cancer progression and glycan-based approaches to cancer therapy.