The 21 principal investigators associated with the MSRC work on myriad research areas. These investigators have published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and being awarded over $150 M in grants. The MSRC strives to train and educate the next generation of scientific innovators.
Our laboratory explores how the knowledge of biomolecular regulation of metal ions can be applied for the development of therapeutics that can benefit human health.
1. Understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating metal solubility, transport, and functionality in the human body.
2. Using biological metal regulation for insights into the development of metal-based anticancer and antidiabetes therapeutics.
3. Design of novel metal sensors for metallomics studies
Dr. Abimael Rodríguez
Laboratory: 205-206 209-210
Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University.
Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT.
Postdoctoral Associate, University of Hawaii.
Characterization of Odour-Active Compounds in Aged Rum.
Approximately half of all current drugs are derived from natural products, demonstrating their potential for drug discovery. The structural diversity and biological activity displayed by natural products may be attributed to a long evolutionary selection process. In our quest for small molecules with biomedical utility for various disease indications we mainly investigate natural products. In particular, largely unexplored marine organisms such as marine sponges and gorgonian corals are evaluated as sources of bioactive secondary metabolites. A variety of phenotypic and target-based assays is being implemented in an evolving screening program. Active compounds are isolated using bioassay- or NMR-guided fractionation and their structures are determined using a combination of spectroscopic techniques, predominantly NMR.
Dr. A. Valance Washington
Laboratory: 217 – 218
Ph.D. in Biology Southern Methodist University
Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Cancer Institute Frederick – NIH
We study the platelets role in cardiovascular disease and inflammation.
Platelet function, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, inflammation.
Dr. Abel Baerga Ortiz
Laboratory: 238, 239, 240, 241 y (CBC 230-231)
BA in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico
PhD in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of California in San Diego (UCSD)
Royal Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The research in my laboratory aims to understand the function of proteins and enzymes, especially thos proteins and enzymes involved in how microbes interact with their hosts. We are also interested in expanding the principles of vaccine design through protein engineering.
My research interests can be broadly defined as “Studies of Enzymes and Proteins of Clinical Interest”. 1) My laboratory has detected the presence of genes in the human gut that encode enzymes that induce intestinal inflammation. Current projects involve the production of these gut bacterial enzymes with the goal of elucidating the exact mechanism by which they promote inflammation in human tissues. 2) I currently direct efforts for the development of a preventive HIV vaccine that could result in the fist vaccine developed in Puerto Rico. A number of analytical methods have been developed for the assessment of vaccine quality based on aggregation, oligomeric state and glycosylation. 3) I also direct the Center for Tropical Biodiversity, an initiative of the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust to develop chemical and biological products derived from unique species from Puerto Rico’s rich biodiversity.
Nanoscience, Biomedical Applications of Nanotechnology
Nanoparticles in the detection and treatment of different types of cancer. Development of sensors and portable devices for monitoring human health.
Dr. Carlos González
Ph.D. in Biology, Rutgers-Newark University
Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ
The current research interests of Dr. Gonzalez’s laboratory focus on the study of post-transcriptional gene regulation, particularly the processes of mRNA turnover, mRNA export and translation. The long-term goal of this work is to understand how these cellular processes coordinately regulate mRNA translatability. These studies are subdivided into two main projects that are currently conducted in my research laboratory. The first project is related to understanding the physiological relevance of the Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathway in tumor progression. Additional studies in the laboratory are focused on characterizing the interplay between mRNA export proteins and components of the protein synthesis machinery (see Appendix 3 for details). The second project studies the post-transcriptional control of human Interleukin-3 (IL-3) by the Adenosine/Uridine-Rich Element (ARE)-Mediated Decay Pathway. In addition, the laboratory has a collaborative project with the laboratory of Dr. Carlos Cabrera entitled: “Development of a Biosensor Microchip for the Detection of Endometrial Cancer Cells at the Point of-Care”.
Cabrera’s research group has been working on nanotechnology and renewable energy for over 20 years. Most of the work done in Cabrera’s laboratory is related to the hydrogen economy, through fuel cell systems for cars, water reclamation from urine using microbiology and electrochemistry, nuclear energy waste remediation, and medical devices for sensing early-stage cancer.
Cabrera’s research group is developing the following projects funded by NSF, NASA, and DOE: (1) oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts for alkaline fuel cell applications, (2) heavy metal (e.g. uranium, lead) remediation using microbial and nanotechnology methods, (3) electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) as a transducer in cancer biosensing applications, (4) wastewater (e..g. urine) remediation using microorganism and ammonia fuel cell techniques, and electrochemistry for space applications.
Dr. Carmen Cadilla
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Postdoctoral Fellow-NCI Carcinogenesis Training Program, UT-ORGSBMS/ORNL
Postdoctoral Fellow-American Cancer Society, UT-ORGSBMS/ORNL
I am interested in rare human genetic diseases and the mechanisms of their pathology. I am presently working with diseases that are caused by mutations in the bHLH transcription factor family, focusing on the TWIST subfamily and their functional and structural properties.
I am a nucleic acid biochemist, with expertise in genetic and genomic analysis of both RNA and DNA. I have also worked with expression of recombinant proteins in E. coli and their purification and functional analysis. I currently am director of the Genomics Services at the UPR MSC RCMI Program. I also have expertise in the analysis of gene expression, mostly at the RNA level, and in transfection of mammalian cultured cells.
Dr. Cornelis Vlaar
PhD, VRYE Universiteit-Amsterdam
Postdoctoral Organic Chemistry, Louisiana State University
Postdoctoral Chemistry, Scripps Research Institute-California
Organic molecules with biological activity to be used as enzyme inhibitors as well as therapeutic agents. Biologically active molecules.
Dr. Dalice Piñero Cruz
BS in Natural Sciences from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, Puerto Rico, USA
Ph. D. from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, Puerto Rico, USA
Postdoctoral Fellow at CNRS-Institut de Chimie de la Matière Condensée de Bordeaux, France.
Postdoctoral Fellow at Institut de Sciences Chimiques de Rennes, Université de Rennes, France.
CNRS-Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal, CNRS Bordeuax, France.
Metal complexes with applications in nanomedicine and environmental nanotechnology.
The Piñero Group’s efforts are directed towards the study of new metal complexes formed from the modification of four families of ligands: dithiolenes, salen-type, phthalocyanines, and pyrazoles. We are interested in the tuning of the magnetic and electrochemical properties of the complexes synthesized by directly functionalizing the ligands and connecting the building units with paramagnetic linkers. The study of each complex brings new fundamental questions to be answered by the in-depth study of their structural, spectroscopic magnetic, and electrochemical characterization. The research activity of the group is directed towards the PIs four projects in Materials Science and Nanomedicine concerning the topics of molecular magnets, theragnostic agents coupling Photothermal Therapy and MRI, and Nanosensors.
Dr. Eduardo Nicolau
BS Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, Puerto Rico, USA
Ph. D. Analytical Chemistry, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, Puerto Rico, USA
Postdoctoral fellow at NASA Ames Research Center, California in collaboration with the NASA URC Center for Advanced Nanoscale Materials, Puerto Rico
My research interests are mainly geared towards the analytical applications of bio-interfaced nanomaterials for catalysis, water purification and applied nanotechnology.
- Preparation of interfaced bionanomaterials for reactive water purification membranes
- Development of point-of-use sensors for the detection of emerging contaminants in water
- Synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials for electrooxidation of high-density fuels.
Undergraduate and Graduate students interested in my research work may send communication to provided contact information.
Silver nanoparticles decorated with graphene quantum dots (Ag-GQDs) are developed as nanocarriers to deliver chemotherapy drugs against human cervical (HeLa) and prostate (DU145) cancer cells. The nanocarriers efficiently transport doxorubicin (DOX), a model chemotherapy drug, to both types of cancer cells in vitro. The cargo is delivered into the nucleus of cancer cells where it induces apoptosis without affecting the viability of non-cancer cells. The Ag GQDs:DOX nanocarriers offer a general platform for targeted chemotherapy drug delivery. It is envisioned that chemotherapy drug nanocarriers can circumvent the adverse effects associated to standard chemotherapy drugs and eventually enable the implementation of cancer prevention protocols.
Dr. José Lasalde-Dominicci
Laboratory: 222, 223, 224, 225 y (CBC 230-231)
B.S. University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus.
Ph.D. Biochemistry, University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus
Research Associate Department of Biochemistry &Biophysics Ion-Channel Structure UC Davis, Davis CA
Research Associate Institute of Neurobiology Electrophysiology, University of Puerto Rico
Patch-Clamp Techniques Medical Sciences Campus
Summer Training Stanford University
Molecular Biology Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University
My research focuses on seven areas: (1) the structure-function relationships of nicotinic receptors, (2), the role of lipid-protein interactions and lipid composition in acetylcholine receptor function, (3) the question of how genetically abnormal ion channels give rise to neurodegeneration in congenital myasthenia, (4) the disruption of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory response (CAR) regulated by alpha7-nAChRs in macrophages in HIV-seropositive patients, including HIV-seropositive smokers, (5) regulation of the alpha7-neuronal nicotinic receptor in HIV-associated dementia, (6) HIV vaccine development initiative, and (7) studies toward a high-resolution structure of the Torpedo californica nAChR and, more recently, alpha4beta2-nAChR. Since 1996, our research group has studied the lipid-protein interface and the lipid regulation of the nAChR using both recombinant expression systems and natural source receptors.
We aim to use the power of chemical synthesis to create molecular-based technologies to improve the quality of life of human beings.
Our research program is focused on chemical synthesis, supramolecular chemistry, and chemical biology. Our expertise studying molecular encapsulation, self-assembly, and responsive materials gives our research group the appropriate perspective to engage in problems at the interphase between chemistry and biology, from the molecular to the cellular scales. Our current studies are broadly aimed at learning fundamental aspects of the structure and dynamics of synthetic supramolecules in complex biological environments, which could in turn have long-term implications to improve human health.
Dr. Marvin Bayro
Development of methods to understand the dynamics and formation of viruses.
Laboratory: 232 y (CBC 230-231)
BA in Chemistry and Physics. Rutgers University. New Brunswick, NJ.
PhD in Physical Chemistry. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge. MA.
Postdoctoral Fellow. National Institutes of Health. Bethesda, MD.
Current research efforts in the Bayro laboratory are centered on understanding the processes of particle formation and maturation by the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) at the atomic level. For this purpose, they have developed solution and solid-state NMR methods tailored for the analysis of protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions and protein assemblies in the context of virus-like particles. Other projects include the study of protein-nanoparticle interactions, the development of protein encapsulation assessment techniques, and the structural and dynamical characterization of potential anti-cancer proteins.
Dr. Riccardo Papa
Laboratory: 219, 220 y 221
PhD. in Evolutionary Developmental Biology. University of Parma, Italy
Postdoctoral Fellow. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Postdoctoral Fellow. University of California, Irvine, CA
Postdoctoral Fellow. University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR
We are interested in understanding the molecular architecture and mechanisms that promote biological diversity. What makes all individuals unique? By answering this question, we can determine also what allows different organisms to present similar characteristics and to understand if evolution is predictable.
Dr. Torsten Stelzer
- Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany Master (Dipl.-Ing.) in Chemical Engineering
- Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany PhD (Dr.-Ing.) in Engineering Science (summa cum laude)
- Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany Assistant Professor (Habilitand) of Engineering Science
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA Post-Doctoral Associate in Chemical Engineering
Crystallization takes place in most physical, biological, and chemical systems, and is exploited today in thousands of applications, from production of commodities to that of pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, fine and agrochemicals. Crystallization has been used since the dawn of civilization (e.g., salt production), and can, thus, be considered as one of the oldest unit operations in the assortment of industrial and/or laboratory separation technologies. It is defined as a phase change in which a second solid (crystalline) phase is formed from a liquid feed. Dr. Stelzer’s research conducted at the Crystallization Design institute in the MSRC is focused from molecules to the developments of crystallization processes and devices lead to a better control of product quality as well as sustainable and greener processes with a reduced environmental footprint.
Dr. Vilmalí López
B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras
M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor under the advising of Adam J. Matzger
Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor under the advising of Adam J. Matzger
Post-Doctoral Associate in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Our research is focused on understanding heterogeneous nucleation mechanisms in order to control crystallization outcomes of industrially relevant materials. Our group works to design heteronucleation platforms and apply these in three major crystallization efforts: to gain understanding of the fundamental factors that affect nucleation in molecular compounds, to promote or inhibit heterogeneous nucleation, and to access, stabilize and deliver solid-forms for novel applications.
1.Development of tailored polymeric nanoformulations for peroral administration of highly insoluble pharmaceuticals.
2. Study of the effect of impurities in the crystallization behavior of pharmaceuticals.
3. Development of a molecular-level understanding of the polymer-crystal interface and the mechanisms leading to the formation of different polymorphs (crystal forms).
4. Thorough understanding of the molecular level interactions, and process parameters leading to polymorph formation in polymer-based drug formulation processes.
In general terms, my laboratory is interested in the cellular and molecular physiology of vascular and brain cells.