Anjana Rao Retires from the JCC Board of Scientific Advisors
The Jane Coffin Childs Fund thanks Anjana Rao for her eight years of service on the Board of Scientific Advisors.
When Rao joined the BSA, she was just transitioning from Harvard Medical School to the Division of Signaling and Gene Expression Research at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology to continue her signaling and gene transcription research.
“The Human Genome Project gave the world the entire nucleotide sequence of every human gene,” Rao said at the time. “While this was monumental, we still know little about how genes and their protein and noncoding RNA products work individually, and collectively, to affect disease processes.”
Using RNAi screens, mouse models, high-throughput sequencing, and other techniques, Rao analyzes gene regulation and how functional flaws in specific proteins lead to autoimmune diseases, developmental defects, and cancer. Rao discovered the “store-operated” calcium entry channel ORAI1 that is necessary for calcium to enter all cells other than neuronal cells; the calcium-regulated transcription factor NFAT which regulates cellular responses, especially in immune cells; and TET proteins which alter DNA methylation and whose loss is tied to abnormalities of development and cell differentiation, neuronal dysfunction, and cancer.
Rao received a master’s of science in physics from Osmania University in India, earned a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, before becoming a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. She won the AAI- Huang Foundation Meritorious Career Award in 2000 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2008.