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Members of the Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention (I-Health) have made great advances in understanding the basic causes of disease and improving the quality of life. The I-Health research groups in cancer, infectious diseases and human health and dementia represent multidisciplinary collaborations across FAU colleges and with regional clinical partners. The present Journey to Health focuses on research activities from all these research groups and more.

In 2021, the Florida Department of Health awarded the Cancer Center of Excellence (CCE) designation to the Memorial Cancer Institute Florida Atlantic University (MCIFAU) partnership, which includes Scripps Florida and the Gift of Life. The MCIFAU CCE is the fifth CCE in Florida, joining the University of Florida Health Cancer Center, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Mayo Clinic Florida, and the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Several MCIFAU CCE initiatives are detailed on pages 10 and 11. Additional cancer-related studies from I-Health members are highlighted on page 5.

The infectious diseases research group has been engaged in numerous SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19-based initiatives. Members of I-Health oversee research examining the psychological impacts of the pandemic (page 5), modeling the impact of the economy on the elimination of COVID-19, evaluating communities at highest risk to COVID-19, and examining genomic information to detect different variants prior to international spread (page 15), predicting outbreaks based on mobility data and age and predicting clinical trial success (page 16), evaluating the spread of COVID-19 and understanding governmental reactions to COVID-19 (page 17).

I-Health is also engaged in the Planetary Protection Center of Excellence Mars Sample Return (MSR) project (pages 18 and 19). The current MSR mission involves the acquisition (by the Perseverance rover) and return of scientifically selected Martian regolith samples for investigation in Earth laboratories. This mission defines sterilization parameters to both ensure scientific integrity of collected samples and prevent any forward (other celestial bodies) and backward (Earth) contamination.

The human health and dementia research group considers all stages of human development and afflictions which primarily impact the neurons of the human brain, resulting in diseases that are presently incurable. I-Health research in this area includes improving outcomes for veterans with mild traumatic brain injury (pages 4 and 7), monitoring cognitive change (pages 5, 8, 9 and 26), determining the unique factors that impact cognitive decline in Hispanics (pages 24 and 25), and evaluating how mitochondria impacts neuron function and subsequent neurodegenerative diseases (pages 22 and 23).

Finally, technological innovations within the I-Health membership include the development of microfluidic devices for monitoring sickle cell anemia and malaria (pages 12 and 13) and using artificial intelligence to predict outcomes of gene mutations (pages 20 and 21). All-in-all, the contributions to human health described in Journey to Health are exciting and, in many cases, paradigm shifting.

Gregg B. Fields, Ph.D., FNAI

Executive Director, Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention
Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

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