Ponce Research Institute is a 501 c.3 non-profit entity that provides the research infrastructure support for an exceptional group of scientists and research staff.  Our researchers are committed to solving some of the most pressing health challenges facing Hispanic communities, in areas such as cancer, neuroscience, infectious diseases, women’s health, community-based research, and e-health initiatives. PRI provides modern research facilities that foster collaborative, integrative research.  We have various ongoing collaborations within Puerto Rico, as well as with many institutions in the U.S. mainland, including a 10 year partnership with Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.  We are leaders in clinical research in southwestern Puerto Rico, and have participated in over 275 Phase 1-Phase 4 clinical trials.  Our institutional strategic plan includes additional expansion of our research team and facilities in the next five years.  In doing so, we will not only contribute to an important body of research that will serve Hispanics across the U.S., we will also bring an influx of investment and job opportunities to our community.  I encourage you to explore the Ponce Research Institute and feel free to contact us if you need additional information.

Our Mission

Our research team is dedicated to ongoing research in the Basic, Behavioral, Public Health, and Clinical Sciences. Our mission is to make a difference by solving health disparities through groundbreaking, innovative and relevant research that has a global impact on health care.

Our Main Goal

 Strengthen and expand research activities to diversify the scientific work and reduce health disparities.

Kenira J. Thompson, Ph.D. President, Ponce Research Institute Vice-President of Research, PHSU

Dr. Kenira Thompson obtained an MS and Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and completed postdoctoral research training at the Cajal Neuroscience Research Institute of the University of Texas San Antonio.

She has been at PHSU for 16 years, and is currently the President of the Ponce Research Institute and the Vice President of Research at PHSU. She oversees all of the research-related activities in both basic and clinical sciences at PHSU, and is the administrator of all research grants received by the institution. Dr. Thompson’s leadership focuses on developing, coordinating and stimulating multi-disciplinary research at the PHSU-PRI, in order for the institution to continue to grow as a prestigious academic and research center. She currently holds the rank of Full Professor in the Depts. of Basic Sciences, Psychiatry, and the Clinical Psychology at PHSU.

In 2017, she became the first Hispanic woman selected to a three-year term on the American Association of Medical College’s Group on Research Advancement (GRAND) Steering Committee, and more recently (2019) was named Chair-Elect for this organization. She has been very influential in recruiting key scientific talent to Puerto Rico. She is a role model to young Hispanic female scientists, and has implemented various programs to expand the pipeline of students interested in biomedical science careers.

In addition, for over three years, she has led relief efforts at PHSU post-hurricane María, as well as during the more recent earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic. The support, aid, and relief efforts provided thanks to her coordination, efforts, and dedication have been necessary and indispensable to help increase the reach and speed of the services provided to citizens in need during the emergency recovery process. These efforts have been recognized locally and nationally, as she continues to be an active participant in the rebuild of Puerto Rico.

Regulatory Compliance

Regulatory compliance is the process of following state, federal, and institutional laws or regulations relevant to research conducted with human subjects, animal models, and biohazards. Ponce Research Institute is doing so with integrity and in a safe, compliant, and ethical manner. Our institute counts with the following resources for investigators to comply with laws and regulations:

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

The IACUC is responsible for the oversight of the Animal Care and Use Program and its components as described in the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Its goals are to: ensure the humane care and use of animals used in research; comply with government guidelines and regulations; and, maintain flexibility to meet the needs of the institution. To accomplish this purpose the IACUC reviews and monitors all animal protocols, veterinary care and emergency/crisis plans, provides advice on animal environment, housing and management, assesses personnel qualifications and training, and conducts regular review of the Program and facilities.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

IRB is formally designated to review and monitor research involving human subjects. In general, a human subject is a living individual about whom an investigator conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual or (2) identifiable private information. The purpose of IRB review is to assure, both in advance and by periodic review, the appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in the research. To accomplish this purpose, the IRB reviews all research protocols and related materials (e.g., human subjects education, research proposals, informed consent documents, and investigator brochures) to ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects of research.

Institutional Biosafety Community

The PHSU Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) oversights for the implementation of safe practices in research, concerning the use of biological material that might represent a hazard for those handling it during research projects. The use of potentially hazardous biological materials in research is highly regulated by the federal agencies, the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Hazardous biological materials are those with the capacity to expose people to get in contact with infectious organisms, toxins, and recombinant nucleic acids, that may cause disease or an adverse effect to their health.
The IBC evaluates all the proposed projects where potential biological hazards are present, to guarantee the identification of the hazardous material and who may be at risk of exposure. They review the safety protocols designed to prevent exposure and the equipment available for protection. By evaluating the research protocols, the committee also ensures that all research projects at PHSU are in compliance with the institutional policies about Biosafety courses, Bloodborne Pathogens courses, protocols for Post-exposure Prophylaxis and HBV vaccination.

Research Areas

Discover research activities, initiatives, and projects.

  • Neurosciences Division
  • Cancer Biology Division
  • Women’s Health Division
  • Mental Health Division
  • Infection Diseases Division
  • Community Outreach Division
  • Clinical Trials Research Division
  • Health Informatics Division
  • Health Disparities Division

Clinical Trials Research Division

Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate medical, surgical, behavioral, or public health interventions on people. They are the method used to find out if a new treatment is safe and effective in people, like a new drug/vaccine, diet, exercise, or medical device. Also, Clinical trials offer the opportunity to learn if a new treatment has less harmful side effects than the current standard treatment.
Community members are welcome to volunteer and participate in our clinical trials carried out at the CAIMED Center and Clinical Research Office (CRO).
At PHSU, we are committed towards improving patient care and therapeutic outcomes.  Our ambulatory clinical research center (CAIMED) is one of the largest clinical research centers in Southern Puerto Rico. At CAIMED we conduct clinical trials, which allow researchers to determine how safe and effective a new drug or treatment is. Our clinical studies involve patient volunteers, and allow us to improve patient care, provide access to the latest treatment options, and reduce the financial burden of health care. Clinical research aims to provide useful information that will improve the future of medicine and patient care. For more information on specific terms used in clinical research, please go to the Glossary of Terms section in ClinicalTrials.gov

Volunteer participants are essential for clinical research to happen.  If you would like to improve medical care for future generations, or if you have a certain disease or illness; experience with a certain disease through friends or family, or have an interest in science, perhaps you could become a volunteer.

You have a choice to volunteer for a clinical study. If you agree to volunteer, our highly qualified staff will inform you on the study, and the potential risks involved. You will decide if you want to participate, and once you are in a study, you may leave it at any time.