Diao awarded Genomic Innovator Awards

September 9, 2020

By Alissa Kocer

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, selected Yarui Diao to receive 2020 Genomic Innovator Awards. NHGRI honored a total of 12 early career investigators in genomics. Each awardee will receive five years of funding.

The Genomic Innovator Award supports innovative work by genomics investigators who are in the early stages of their careers and are part of consortia or other team-science efforts. This award allows researchers the flexibility to pursue innovative research directions in genomics.

Craig Lowe, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology also received a Genomic Innovator Award.

Yarui Diao, Ph.D.
Analyze the molecular composition associated with non-coding DNA and RNA sequences

Yarui Diao is focused on gaining a better understanding of the function and regulation of the non-coding genome in health and disease. The Diao lab will develop a CRISPR-based BioID method that uses a functional multi-omics approach to characterize the molecular composition associated with non-coding regulatory DNA and RNA. This will allow them to identify the “molecular handle” that can be engineered to create a proof-of-principle study to reverse the aging phenotype by manipulating the activity of the non-coding regulatory genomic sequence.

“In aging and in many disease including cancer,” Diao said, “there’s dysregulation of non-coding regulatory elements in the genome, but we don’t know the mechanisms that control it.”

Once they develop their CRISPR-based BioID tool, as proof-of-principle, they will apply it to compare young versus aged mice and identify the molecules and proteins responsible for aging-associated genomic activation in skeletal muscle, which may eventually lead to muscular disorder.

“Hopefully by targeting these molecules, we can manipulate genome activity at will, and expand the ‘druggable genome’ for genomic medicine.