The blog of the 2009 – 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Member Spotlight: Raju Kucherlapati

raju-kucherlapati_portrait“Growing up, I thought of the United States as a shining beacon of hope. I came here as a nobody, but this country has given me so much,” Raju Kucherlapati, Ph.D., said. President Obama appointed Kucherlapati to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Bioethics Commission) in April 2010 because of Kucherlapti’s extensive knowledge and background in genetics. Kucherlapati is the Paul C. Cabot Professor in the Harvard Medical School Department of Genetics and is also a professor in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He has chaired many NIH committees and is a member of the Cancer Genome Atlas project. Currently, his research focuses on gene mapping, gene modification, and cloning disease genes.

Kucherlapati grew up in Andhra Pradesh, India. He started his scientific career in India by earning a B.S. in Biology from P.R. College in Kakinada, and an M.S. in Biology from Andhra University in Waltair. In 1967 Kucherlapati came to the United States to begin a doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Urbana. It was during this time that he became interested in human gene mapping. After Kucherlapati obtained his doctoral degree he was offered the opportunity do his post-doctoral work at Yale University in the lab of the late Dr. Frank Ruddle. Ruddle was an innovator in genetics and his work was at the foreground of mapping human genes. At Yale, Kucherlapati started research that would be the foundation for his future work on gene targeting. He conducted some of this work in collaboration with the Nobel Prize winner Oliver Smithies.

During the course of his career Kucherlapati has done research with gene targeting, gene cloning, and on mapping and sequencing human chromosome 12. He holds 12 patents and has served as editor in chief of the journal Genomics. Kucherlapati currently heads his own lab at Harvard where the work is focused on using genetics to understand cancer. Kucherlapati believes that diseases that are fatal today might not be so for patients in the future.

Kucherlapati might believe he came to the United States as “a nobody,” but he has earned his role as a top geneticist who has helped the Bioethics Commission navigate several ethically challenging questions of our time. He said that when he was originally offered the appointment to the Bioethics Commission he questioned whether he was right for the job. However, projects like Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing, in which the Bioethics Commission tackled pressing privacy and data access issues raised by the emergence of low cost whole genome sequencing, helped him realize how important it is to have experts from a diverse set of fields wrestle with these contemporary ethical dilemmas to offer the Administration the best analysis. “I’ve learned so much from everyone and they all have such different backgrounds. It’s been very interesting and a true pleasure,” he said.


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This is a space for the members and staff of the 2009 -2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

As of January 15th, 2017 this blog will no longer be updated but continues to be available as an archive of the work of the 2009-2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Learn more about the 2009 - 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.