Welcome to the Rana Lab

RNA and Chemical Biology approaches to develop new therapies and cures for COVID-19, Cancer, and HIV/AIDS

We are a multidisciplinary laboratory focused on discovering fundamental mechanisms of RNA biology that regulate immune response to viral infections and cancer, and the host response to immunotherapy. Our team has helped to uncover numerous functions of regulatory RNA assemblies in gene silencing, stem cell biology, cancer, immunity, and host-pathogen interactions.

Dr. Tariq Rana is a scholar, inventor, entrepreneur, and multidisciplinary scientist who is developing new therapies to treat infectious disease, cancer, and immune disorders. He is a Professor and Head of Genetics, V/C for Innovation in Therapeutics, Department of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, where his laboratory employs mechanisms and technologies of RNA, stem cells, and chemical biology to discover new pathways implicated in human disease.

Featured Research

One of the interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), cholesterol 25-hydroxylase (CH25H), is induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro and in COVID-19 patients. CH25H converts cholesterol to 25-hydrocholesterol (25HC) and 25HC shows broad anti-coronavirus activity by blocking membrane fusion. Wang, Li, et al., Oct 20

Inhibition of N6‐methyladenosine (m6A) mRNA modification enhanced response to anti‐PD‐1 treatment in colon and melanoma tumors. Mettl3‐ or Mettl14‐deficient tumors increased cytotoxic tumor‐infiltrating CD8+ T cells and elevated secretion of IFN‐γ, Cxcl9, and Cxcl10 in tumor microenvironment in vivoWang et al, Oct 2020

Cancer immunotherapy — a treatment that better enables a patient’s own immune system to attack tumors — has shown great potential against some cancers. Yet immunotherapy doesn’t work against all tumor types, and many patients who initially respond later develop resistance and relapse. UC San Diego researchers found that when an RNA-editing enzyme ALKBH5 is inhibited during cancer immunotherapy, metabolites in the tumor microenvironment change is such a way that fewer immune-suppressing cells accumulate, making the treatment more effective at shrinking tumors. Li et al., UCSD Health News Aug 2020

Using genetic sequencing, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers have identified a principal cellular player controlling HIV reproduction in immune cells which, when turned off or deleted, eliminates dormant HIV reservoirs. UCSD Health News Sep 2019


“Zika causes a fetus’s developing brain to essentially attack itself in a pregnancy, according to remarkable new research into the mosquito-borne virus. And there might be a way to stop it. As images of babies born with shrunken skulls continue to emerge from Zika-stricken countries, the research helps answer a persistent question of how, exactly, the virus arrests a baby’s development in utero” – Newsweek, May 2016


Cancers driven by mutations in the KRAS gene are among the most deadly. For decades, researchers have tried unsuccessfully to directly target mutant KRAS proteins as a means to treat tumors. Instead of targeting mutant KRAS itself, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine are now looking for other genes or molecules that, when inhibited, kill cancer cells only when KRAS is also mutated. – UCSD Health Newsroom, September 27, 2017


“There are many genes and proteins being studied for their roles in inflammation and innate immunity, as well as for drug design,” said Tariq Rana, PhD, professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Yet only two percent of the human genome actually encodes proteins.” – UCSD Health Sciences, March 27, 2019

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