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Raj R. Rao

Raj R. Rao, Ph.D.

Raj R. Rao, Ph.D.

Associate professor, Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering
Phone: (804) 828-4268
Fax: (804) 828-3846

Virginia Commonwealth University
School of Engineering
Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering
West Hall, Room 414
601 West Main Street
P.O. Box 843028
Richmond, Virginia 23284-3028


  • B.E., (Hons) chemical engineering*, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, 1993
  • M.Sc., (Hons) biological sciences*, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, 1993
  • M.S., biotechnology, University of Texas, 1996
  • Ph.D., biological engineering, University of Georgia, 2001

* concurrent degrees in a dual-degree program

Research topics

  • Stem Cell Bioprocessing
  • Biomaterials and Biomarkers
  • Pluripotency
  • Genomic Stability
  • Cancer Stem Cells
  • Cellular Reprogramming
  • Neural differentiation
  • Cellular Engineering
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • International Engineering Education

Selected awards

  • 2012: Burroughs Wellcome Travel Scholarship, United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation
  • 2012: Research highlights on the Science, Engineering & Education Innovation website (
  • 2011: VCU Engineering Student Council Outstanding Professor Award
  • 2011: National Science Foundation (NSF) CBET Award Achievements (
  • 2008-13: Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, U.S. National Science Foundation
  • 2008-11: Qimonda Professor of Chemical and Life Science Engineering
  • 2008: Invited to give “Best of BIOT” webinar for American Chemical Society national meeting
  • 2007-present: Editorial board member, Journal of Biological Engineering, BioMed Central
  • 2009-present: Member, Science Advisory Board, Genetics Policy Institute
  • 2005: Invited panel member for special issue of the microarray bulletin: advances in stem cell research

Editorial advisory board

  • Journal of Biological Engineering, BioMed Central, 2007-present

Advanced courses in stem cell research

  • Organizer, short-term course in human embryonic stem cell culture, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2007, 2009
  • Instructor, human embryonic stem cell workshop, University of Georgia, 2003-06


  • Moustafa, M.E., Gadepalli, V.S., Elmak, A.A., Lee, W., Rao, R.R., and V.K. Yadavalli. Large area micropatterning of cells on polydimethylsiloxane surfaces. Accepted in J Biological Engineering. (2014)
  • Gadepalli, V., Deb, S.P., Deb, S and R.R. Rao. Lung Cancer Stem cells, p53 mutations and MDM2. In “Mutant p53 and MDM2 in Cancer”. Subcell Biochem. 2014;85:359-70. (2014)
  • Prashanth, B.N., Rajput, S., Sarkar, S., Das, S., Emdad, L., Sarkar, D., Venkatesan, P., Dey, G., Konar, S., Brunt, K., Rao, R.R., Mazumdar, A., Kundu, S., Mahanty, A., Fisher, P.B., and M. Mandal. Sequential release of drugs from Hollow Manganese Ferrate nanocarriers for Breast cancer therapy. Accepted in Journal of Materials Chemistry B. (2014)
  • Swaminathan G, Gadepalli V, Stoilov, I., Mecham, R.P., Rao RR, and Ramamurthi A. Pro-elastogenic effects of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell-derived smooth muscle cells on cultured aneurysmal smooth muscle cells. Accepted in J Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. (2014).
  • King, A., Chakrabarty, S., Zhang, W., Zeng, X., Wood, L., Ohman, D.E., Abraham, S., Rao., R.R., and K.J. Wynne. High antimicrobial effectiveness with low hemolytic and cytotoxic activity for PEG/quaternary copolyoxetanes and a geometric model for polycation – bacterial membrane interactions. Biomacromolecules. 15(2):456-67. (2014.)
  • Gadepalli, V., Vaughn, C., and R.R. Rao. Isolation and characterization of murine multipotent lung stem cells. Methods in Molecular Biology- p53 Protocols, Second Edition”. 962:183-91 (2013)
  • Eroshenko,N., Ramachandran, R., Yadavalli, V.K., and R.R.Rao. Effect of substrate stiffness on early human embryonic stem cell differentiation. Journal of Biological Engineering. 7:7 doi:10.1186/1754-1611-7-7. (2013)
  • Bashur, C., Rao, R.R. and A. Ramamurthi. Perspectives on Stem Cell-Based Elastic Matrix Regenerative Therapies for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms. Stem Cells Translational Medicine. In Press. (2013)
  • Shirley, M.L., Johnson, A.V., Rao, R.R., Boyd,N.L., Stice, S.L., Puett.D., and P. Narayan. Bone morphogenetic protein-4 affects both trophoblast and non-trophoblast lineage-associated gene expression in human embryonic stem cells. Stem Cell Discovery. 2:4. 163-175. (2012)
  • Sachs PC, Francis MP, Zhao M, Brumelle J, Rao RR, Elmore LW, Holt SE. Defining essential stem cell characteristics in adipose-derived stromal cells extracted from distinct anatomical sites. Cell and Tissue Research. 349(2):505-15. May 25. [Epub ahead of print]. (2012)
  • Sheridan, S.D., Surampudi, V. and Rao, R.R. Analysis of embryoid bodies derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells as a means to assess pluripotency. Stem Cells International. 738910. Epub 2012 Mar 1. (2012)
  • Iyer, S., Bergquist, K.E., Young, K., Gnaiger, E., Rao, R.R. and J.P. Bennett. Jr. Mitochondrial gene therapy improves respiration, biogenesis and transcription in G11778A Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy and T8993G Leigh’s syndrome cells. Human Gene Therapy. Apr 17. [Epub ahead of print] (2012)
  • Vanee, N., Roberts, S.B., Riggs, M.J., Rao, R.R. and Fong, S.S. Identification of metabolic changes in genetically unstable stem cells using model analysis of gene expression. Chemistry and Biodiversity. 9(5):911-29. (2012)
  • Iyer, S., Xiao, E., Alsayegh, K., Riggs, M.J., Eroshenko, N., Bennett, J.P. and Rao, R.R. Mitochondrial gene replacement in human pluripotent stem cell derived neural progenitors. Gene Therapy. 19(5):469-75. Sep 15. 2011. Epub ahead of print. (2012)
  • Dodla, M., Young, A., Johnson, A.V., Hasneen, K., Rao, R.R., Machacek, D. and S.L. Stice. Differing lectin binding profiles among human embryonic stem cells and derivatives aid in the isolation of neural progenitor cells. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23266. (2011)
  • Chakrabarty, S., King, A., Kurt, P., Zhang, W., Ohman, D., Wood, L., Lovelace, C., Rao, R.R. and K.J. Wynne. Highly effective, water soluble, hemocompatible 1,3-propylene oxide-based antimicrobials: Poly[(3,3-quaternary/PEG)-copolyoxetanes]. Biomacromolecules. 12(3):757-69. (2011)
  • Abraham, S., Riggs, M.J., Nelson, K., Lee, V. and Rao, R.R. Characterization and application of human fibroblast-derived extracellular matrix for human pluripotent stem cell propagation. Acta Biomaterialia. 6(12): 4622-4633. (2010)
  • Abraham, S., Sheridan, S.D., Miller, B. and Rao, R.R. Stable propagation of human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells on decellularized human substrates. Biotechnology Progress. 26(4): 1126-1134. (2010)
  • Pascual, E.Y., Riggs, M.J. and Rao, R.R. Immunocytochemical analysis of human pluripotent stem cells using a self-made cytospin apparatus. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 38, doi: 10.3791/1944. (2010)
  • Abraham, S., Sheridan, S.D., Laurent, L.C., Albert, K., Stubban, C., Ulitsky, I., Miller, B., Loring, J.F. and Rao, R.R. Propagation of human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells in an indirect co-culture system. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 393(2): 211-216. (2010)
  • West, F.D., Roche-Rios, M.I., Abraham, S., Rao, R.R., Natrajan, M.S. and Stice, S.L. KIT ligand and bone morphogenetic protein 1 signaling enhances human embryonic stem cell to germ-like cell differentiation. Human Reproduction. 25(1):168-178. Epub 2009 Oct 19. (2010)
  • Adams, B.R., Golding, S.E., Rao, R.R. and Valerie, K. Dynamic dependence of ATR and ATM in DNA double-strand break repair in human embryonic stem cells and differentiated neural progenies. PLoS ONE 5(4): e10001. (2010)
  • Iyer, S., Alsayegh, K., Abraham, S. and Rao, R.R. Stem cell based models and therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Critical Reviews in Biomedical Engineering. 37(4): 321-353. (2009)
  • Wilczynska, K.M., Singh, S.K., Adams, B., Bryan, L.E, Rao, R.R, Valerie, K., Wright, S., Griswold-Prenner I. and Kordula, T. Nuclear factor I isoforms regulate gene expression during the differentiation of human neural progenitors to astrocytes. Stem Cells. 27(5):1173-1181. (2009)
  • Abraham, S., Eroshenko, N. and Rao, R.R. Role of bio-inspired polymers in determination of pluripotent stem cell fate. Regenerative Medicine. 4(4): 561-578. (2009)
  • Dhara, S.K., Hasneen, K., Machacek, D.W., Boyd, N.L., Rao, R.R., and S.L. Stice. Human neural progenitor cells derived from embryonic stem cells in feeder-free cultures. Differentiation. Jan 3. Epub ahead of print. (2008)
  • Rao, R.R., Johnson, A.V., and S.L. Stice. Cell surface markers in human embryonic stem cells. Methods in Molecular Biology-Stem Cell Assays. 407: 51-61 (2007)
  • Boyd, N.L., Dhara, S.K., Rekaya, R., Godbey, E.A., Hasneen, K., Rao, R.R., West, F.D. III, Gerwe, B.A., and S.L. Stice. Bone morphogenic protein 4 promotes development and outgrowth of primitive vascular networks in human embryonic stem cell derived embryoid bodies. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 232: 833-843. (2007)
  • Tibbitts, D., Rao, R.R., Shin, S., West, F., and S.L. Stice. Uniform populations of adherent neural progenitor cells derived from rhesus monkey embryonic stem cells. Stem Cells and Development Vol. 15(2): 200-208. (2006)
  • Shin, S., Mitalipova, M., Noggle, S., Tibbitts, D., Venable, A., Rao, R.R., and S.L. Stice. Long term proliferation of human embryonic stem cell-derived neuroepithelial cells using defined adherent culture conditions. Stem Cells Vol. 24(1): 125-138. (2006)
  • Mitalipova, M.M.*, Rao, R.R.*, Hoyer, D., Jones, K., Johnson, J., Dalton, S., Meisner, L., and S.L. Stice. Preserving the genetic integrity of human embryonic stem cell lines. Nature Biotechnology. 23(1): 19-20 (2005). (* equal contribution to work)
  • Rao, R.R., and S.L. Stice. Gene expression profiling of embryonic stem cells leads to greater understanding of pluripotency and early developmental events. Biol Reprod. 71(6):1772-1778 (2004).
  • Rao, R.R., Calhoun, J., Qin, X., Rekaya, R., Clark, J., and S.L. Stice. Comparative transcriptional profiling of two human embryonic stem cell lines. Biotechnology and Bioengineering. Oct 18;88(3):273-286 (2004).
  • Rao, R.R.*, Calhoun, J.*, Warrenfeltz, S., Rekaya, R., Dalton, S., McDonald, J., and S.L. Stice. Transcriptional profiling of initial differentiation events in human embryonic stem cells. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 323(2):453-464 (2004).
  • Rao, R.R. and W.S. Kisaalita. A single magnetic field exposure system for sequential investigation of real-time and downstream cellular responses. Bioelectromagnetics, 25(1):27-32 (2004).
  • McCloskey, K., Lyons, I., Rao, R.R., Stice, S.L., and R.M. Nerem. Purified and proliferating endothelial cells derived and expanded in vitro from embryonic stem cells. Endothelium, 10(6):329-36 (2003).
  • Rao, R.R. and W.S. Kisaalita. Biochemical and electrophysiological differentiation profile of a human neuroblastoma (IMR-32) cell line. In Vitro-Cell Dev Biol Anim,38(8):450-456 (2002).
  • Rao, R.R. Halper, J., and W.S. Kisaalita. Effects of 60 Hz electromagnetic field exposure on APP695 transcription in differentiating human neuroblastoma cells. Bioelectrochemistry, 57:9-15 (2002).

Society membership

  • Society for Biological Engineering, 2006-present
  • Biomedical Engineering Society, 2002-present
  • Institute of Biological Engineering, 2003-present
  • International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2003-present