Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Akanksha Thawani, PhD

Dr. Thawani [Merck Fellow] studies selfish DNA sequences—so called because they copy and paste themselves within the human genome despite offering no specific fitness advantage. Dr. Thawani will utilize advanced methods such as cryo-electron microscopy to reveal the cellular machinery that assists these selfish elements and thus delineate their mechanism of mobility. She will use this insight to engineer new genome editing technologies to precisely insert large genes at user-specified sites in a variety of human cell types. This general technology will not only translate directly into new gene therapies, but also result in wide-ranging applications in synthetic biology. Ultimately, this work will contribute to treatment for many cancer types, including improved CAR-T therapies for blood cancers.

Project title: "Targeted genetic supplementation by harnessing transposable elements"
Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Named Award: Merck Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Eva Nogales, PhD, and Kathleen Collins, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: RNA (RNA processing, miRNA and piRNA mechanisms, enzymatic RNAs, etc.)