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Faculty Profile

Preethi GunaratnePreethi Gunaratne

Associate Professor
Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Office: Science & Engineering Research Center, 4028
Contact: phgunaratne@uh.edu - (713) 743-2686

Education: Ph.D, Cornell University

Google Scholar Profile

Dr. Preethi Gunaratne’s long-term goal is to decode the non-coding genome to discover microRNAs and Long-non-coding RNAs that are involved in regulating protein-coding gene networks that underlie key decision making steps during development and disease. To achieve this goal, her lab has established a functional genomics platform that combines the latest NextGeneration Sequencing and bioinformatics tools with high-throughput functional screen to identify critical drivers of biological networks that drive important lineage decisions during development and the perturbation of normal networks in complex disease such as cancer. The Gunaratne Lab has utilized the functional genomics platform to contribute unique and microRNA-regulated gene signatures from over 1,000 tissue samples. Applying this approach to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Project Pan-Cancer dataset across 20 cancers, Gunaratne and co-workers have identified biomarkers that better predict clinical outcomes than gene expression based signatures for ovarian, colorectal, metastatic breast, skin and kidney cancers, multiple myeloma, neuroblastoma and osteosarcoma.

Through Gunaratne’s participation as the lead for microRNAs in the NCI/NHGRI-The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), NHGRI-Zebrafinch and NHGRI-Marmoset Genome Sequencing Consortia, Gunaratne and co-workers have laid the groundwork for determining the role of the microRNAs in cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, COPD/emphysema, song response in the auditory forebrain of songbirds, and avian flu virus infected chicken lungs.

To rapidly translate this work into clinical practice, Gunaratne established a UH spin-off company NEXTmiRNA Technologies (www.nextmirna.com) based on four patents acquired for microRNA drugs and gold nanoparticle-based delivery agents. Preclinical work for the lead microRNA therapeutic for ovarian cancer has been carried out in collaboration with Dr. Esther Chang at SynerGene Therapeutics/Lombardi Cancer Center Georgetown University.

Honors and Awards:

2014 McNair Foundation Award
2012 McNair Foundation Award
2011 Virginia & L. E. Simmons Family Foundation Award (joint award with Jason Shohet and Xiabo Zhou)
2011 Cullen Foundation Award
2010 Baylor Partnership Fund Raising Featured Beneficiary Award (joint award with Matthew Anderson and Martin Matzuk)
2004-2006 Moran Foundation Award (joint award with Dolores Lopez Terrada)
1989 Leukemia Research Foundation Fellowship Award
1988 Northwestern Memorial Galter Fellowship Award
1986 Amoco Research Award, Chicago

Organizations, Outreach, Boards, Memberships:

Co-Founder/Chief Scientific Officer – NEXTmiRNA Technologies

National Consortia

NCI TCGA PanCancer Consortium – 2016, Lead LncRNA Group
NHGRI Marmoset Genome Consortium – 2015, Lead microRNA Group
NCI/NHGRI The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Consortium – 2009-Present, Co-Lead microRNA Group
NHGRI Marmoset Genome Consortium – 2010-2013, Lead microRNA Group
NHGRI Zebrafinch Genome Consortium – 2009, Lead microRNA Group
NIDDK Stem Cell Genome Anatomy Project (SCGAP) Consortium – 2003-2005
NHGRI/NCI Mammalian Gene Collection (MGC) Consortium – 2002-2005
NHGRI The International Human Genome Project Consortium – 2001-2002

Editorial Boards

2011-Present Review Editor, Frontiers in Non-coding RNA Journal

A.11. Grant Review

2016 NCI-2016/05 ZCA1 SRB-J (M2) R–Special Emphasis Panel/Scientific Review Group
2015 NCI-ZCA1 SRB-J (M2) S–Special Emphasis Panel/Scientific Review Group
Swiss National Science Foundation
Pennsylvania Department of Health Scientific Review Group
2011-2012 NIH-ZRG1GGG-H30S–Special Emphasis Panel/Scientific Review Group
NIH-ZRG1 GGG-H31S – High-end Instrumentation Grants
NHMRC-National Health and Medical Research Council- Australia
2012 Duncan Family Institute Seed Funding Research Program
2010 NIH – CNIHR – Ad Hoc
Cancer Research UK
2009-2010 US-Israel Binational Science Foundation
2010 Israel Science Foundation
2011 Czech Science Foundation
Netherlands-Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)