Chief, Translational Research Program
The Translational Research Program (TRP) serves three major functions at the VRC: 1) provides centralized support and service for all in vivo research conducted at the VRC, 2) conducts collaborative research and animal model development, and 3) operates a fully accredited lab animal facility.
TRP provides all aspects of oversight and programmatic assistance to support teaching, training, and in vivo research for the VRC by managing all preclinical safety and regulatory issues, ensuring judicious and humane use of animals in compliance with all institutional, local, state, and federal guidelines. It is the VRC’s primary resource for consultation, collaboration, and professional assistance in selecting appropriate animal models or establishing novel models to study disease and vaccine effects.
TRP pursues independent and collaborative research projects related to animal model and preclinical product development for HIV, influenza, emerging infectious diseases such as alphaviruses, and other biodefense-focused diseases. We conduct translational research to advance vaccine products from preclinical stages toward human clinical trials by actively monitoring and overseeing efficacy, safety, and toxicology studies in preparation for regulatory oversight of product development. TRP also investigates novel vaccine delivery methods to enhance efficiency, vaccine efficacy, and safety.
TRP serves as a fully Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC)-accredited in-house animal facility, adhering to all federal regulations. The facility provides quality animal husbandry services, veterinary care, and facility management support for rodents. The facility offers preventive medical care, routine surveillance, and quality assurance for vendor- and colony-produced animals and may also establish and maintain its own mouse breeding colonies if necessary. A variety of technical services are performed by facility staff, including parenteral injections or oral administration of Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC)-approved experimental materials; blood, tissue, and serum collection; surgical manipulations; animal identification procedures; electroporation procedures; anesthesia/analgesic administration; and other procedures as needed. The veterinary care unit also offers training for those who wish to perform these procedures themselves. For VRC studies conducted at other facilities, TRP establishes contractual agreements and coordination between investigators and these facilities. Within the in-house facility and contracted facilities, TRP ensures high- quality research in accordance with regulatory guidelines and compliance with good laboratory practices (GLP) and biosafety level requirements as essential.
Dr. Rao is a licensed veterinarian and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathology (ACVP). He received his veterinary degree from the University of Agricultural Sciences Bangalore. He received an M.S. in bacterial pathogenesis and a Ph.D. in in molecular pathology from the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine, as well as an M.B.A. from the Smith School of Business. Prior to the joining the VRC in 2003, Dr. Rao was a faculty member (pathology) and chief of veterinary medical pathology at the University of Maryland Medical School.
Santra S, Muldoon M, Watson S, Buzby A, Balachandran H, Carlson KR, Mach L, Kong WP, McKee K, Yang ZY, Rao SS, Mascola JR, Nabel GJ, Korber BT, Letvin NL. Breadth of cellular and humoral immune responses elicited in rhesus monkeys by multi-valent mosaic and consensus immunogens. Virology. 2012 Jul 5;428(2):121-7.
Bolton DL, Song K, Wilson RL, Kozlowski PA, Tomaras GD, Keele BF, Lovingood RV, Rao S, Roederer M. Comparison of systemic and mucosal vaccination: impact on intravenous and rectal SIV challenge. Mucosal Immunol. 2012 Jan;5(1):41-52.
Song K, Bolton DL, Wei CJ, Wilson RL, Camp JV, Bao S, Mattapallil JJ, Herzenberg LA, Herzenberg LA, Andrews CA, Sadoff JC, Goudsmit J, Pau MG, Seder RA, Kozlowski PA, Nabel GJ, Roederer M, Rao SS. Genetic immunization in the lung induces potent local and systemic immune responses. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Dec 21;107(51):22213-8.
Wei CJ, Boyington JC, McTamney PM, Kong WP, Pearce MB, Xu L, Andersen H, Rao S, Tumpey TM, Yang ZY, Nabel GJ. Induction of broadly neutralizing H1N1 influenza antibodies by vaccination. Science. 2010 Aug 27;329(5995):1060-4.
Akahata W, Yang ZY, Andersen H, Sun S, Holdaway HA, Kong WP, Lewis MG, Higgs S, Rossmann MG, Rao S, Nabel GJ. A virus-like particle vaccine for epidemic Chikungunya virus protects nonhuman primates against infection. Nat Med. 2010 Mar;16(3):334-8.
Rao S, Kong WP, Wei CJ, Yang ZY, Nason M, Styles D, DeTolla LJ, Panda A, Sorrell EM, Song H, Wan H, Ramirez-Nieto GC, Perez D, Nabel GJ. Multivalent HA DNA vaccination protects against highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza infection in chickens and mice. PLoS One. 2008;3(6):e2432.
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Last Updated March 04, 2014