Richard J. Noel Jr., PhD is the Chair of the Basic Sciences Department and a Professor of Biochemistry for the Ponce Health Sciences University (PHSU). At the affiliated Ponce Research Institute, he serves as the Associate PI for the RCMI Program and is the Director of the Molecular and Genomics Core Laboratory (http://www.psm.edu/MAGIC/index.html) which is supported by the RCMI program. Dr. Noel is a member of the HIV and Neuro/Mental Health clusters and has served in the leadership of the latter.
Dr. Noel is originally from Troy, New York and received a BS in Biology from Boston College in 1993 and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1998. In 2001, after post-doctoral work in the Department of Pharmacology at the Ponce School of Medicine (now Ponce Health Sciences University), Dr. Noel joined the Department of Biochemistry as an Assistant Professor and began working in the AIDS Research Program to study the structure/function relationship of the HIV Tat protein. This work led to his current interests in HIV neuropathogenesis by viral neurotoxins as well as synergistic neurotoxicity by drugs of abuse. He has graduated five PhD students and trained nearly 100 students from high school, undergraduate, graduate and medical school. In addition, he has mentored junior faculty at PHSU and other RCMI institutions in Puerto Rico and currently serves as the director of the RCMI Research Pilot Project Program and is a member of the PHSU Institutional Research Advisory Council.
Outside of PHSU, Richard Noel has served as the national chairperson for the Meetings Committee for the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology (SNIP, www.s-nip.org). He also serves as a reviewer for a handful of journals focused on HIV/AIDS, HIV neuropathology, and neuroinflammation as well as a grant reviewer for several organizations and programs across and outside of the RTRN network.
The lab currently has projects focused on the role of HIV-1 Nef in causing learning deficits as well as inflammation in the brain when expressed from astrocytes. Most of the studies involve a rat model system or in vitro cell culture to look at the mechanism of Nef neurotoxicity. The model has also developed some interesting side projects to look at neuroprotective factors as well as an interesting finding that the brain inflammation generates a systemic inflammatory response affecting GI and lung tissue. The lab is also working with the HIV-1 neurotoxins Vpr and Tat along similar approaches. The lab is always seeking new collaborators interested in expanding the work on the model to better understand the pathology of HIV proteins both in the brain and periphery.