February 02, 2021
Rao working in his lab

Biology Professor Venigalla Rao and his bacteriophage T4 lab have been nominated for the 2021 MolecularCloud Distinguished Research Award, which is sponsored by the biotechnology company GenScript. The award recognizes outstanding researchers and research achievements in the field of genome editing. 

Rao and his laboratory of post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduate students, and high school students study bacteriophage T4 — a tailed virus containing ~170-kb double stranded DNA genome — to learn about the basic mechanisms by which viruses replicate and assemble infectious virus particles. The team uses a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating molecular genetics, structure, and biophysics. Their findings have been translated into platforms for vaccine delivery and gene therapy. 

Rao’s current focus is to integrate CRISPR genome editing into bacteriophage research and create new ways to design future vaccines against pandemic pathogens and gene therapeutics to cure genetic diseases. The team has recently designed an effective phage T4-COVID vaccine.

Rao’s lab is one of 19 teams nominated and the two laboratories that receive the most votes will win the award.