As the Executive Director of the National Research Mentoring Network and the Principal Investigator of the Administrative Core of NRMN located at Boston College, Dr. Rafael E. Luna utilizes data analytics to strategically grow NRMN and effectively reach all 50 states, including Hawaii, Alaska & Puerto Rico.
Dr. Luna earned his bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During his junior year at Southern, he was one of six individuals selected from a nationwide competition to participate in the inaugural Biomedical Research Training Program at the National Institutes of Health, which ignited a passion for biomedical research. During his senior year at Southern, he was named as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholar through Louisiana State University (LSU) and began doing molecular biology research. Dr. Luna thoroughly enjoyed his research experience, as he subsequently earned his doctorate in Biological Sciences at LSU. In 2015, Dr. Luna was named as one of six Keystone Symposia Fellows in Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Dr. Luna performed his postdoctorate research at Harvard Medical School, which centered on elucidating the sequence of protein-protein interactions leading to the decoding of the initial start codons of messenger RNAs. Dr. Luna held the position of Instructor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. He also held the role as Program Director for Senior Faculty Promotions in the Office for Faculty Affairs at Harvard Medical School.
In addition to doing biomedical research, he is a dynamic speaker and has led lectures and workshops throughout the United States and Europe, e.g. Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT-Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer, Wyss Institute at Harvard, Harvard University, Children’s Hospital-Boston, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston University Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, University of Bergen (Norway), Saarland University (Germany), University of Graz (Austria), University College of London (England) and many more. Dr. Luna also believes in giving back to the community by serving as a little league coach for 10 years in inner-city Boston, and four years ago was elected as the President of Mission Hill Little League.
Contributions to Science
Obayashi E*, Luna RE*, Nagata T*, Martin-Marcos P*, Hiraishi H*, Singh CR*, Erzberger JP, Zhang F, Arthanari H, Morris J, Pellarin R, Moore C, Harmon I, Papadopoulos E, Yoshida H, Nasr ML, Unzai S, Brytteny Thompson B, Aube E, Hustak S, Stengel F, Dagraca E, Ananbandam A, Gao P, Urano T, Hinnebusch AG, Wagner G, and Asano K, Molecular landscape of the ribosome pre-initiation complex during mRNA scanning: structural role for eIF3c and its control by eIF5. Cell Reports Mar 14;18(11):2651-2663 (2017).
Kozel C, Thompson B, Hustak S, Moore C, Nakashima A, Singh CR, Reid M, Cox C, Papadopoulos E, Luna RE, Anderson A, Tagami H, Hiraishi H, Slone EA, Yoshino KI, Asano M, Gillaspie S, Nietfeld J, Perchellet JP, Rothenburg S, Masai H, Wagner G, Beeser A, Kikkawa U, Fleming SD, Asano K, Overexpression of eIF5 or its protein mimic 5MP perturbs eIF2 function and induces ATF4 translation through delayed re-initiation. Nucleic Acids Res. Oct 14;44(18):8704-8713 (2016).
Yi T, Arthanari H, Akabayov B, Song H, Papadopoulos E, Qi HH, Jedrychowski M, Güttler T, Guo C, Luna RE, Gygi SP, Huang SA, Wagner G, eIF1A augments Ago2-mediated Dicer-independent miRNA biogenesis and RNA interference. Nat Commun. May 28;6:7194 (2015).
Papadopoulos E, Jenni S, Kabha E, Takrouri KJ, Yi T, Salvi N, Luna RE, Gavathiotis E, Mahalingam P, Arthanari H, Rodriguez-Mias R, Yefidoff-Freedman R, Aktas BH, Chorev M, Halperin JA, Wagner G, Structure of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF4E in complex with 4EGI-1 reveals an allosteric mechanism for dissociating eIF4G. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 5;111(31):E3187-95 (2014).
Martin-Marcos P, Nanda J, Luna RE, Wagner G, Lorsch JR, and Hinnebusch AG, Affinity of eIF1 40S ribosome binding mediates hyper-accuracy of AUG selection in vivo. RNA Journal February; 20(2): 150-67 (2014).
Luna RE*, Arthanari H*, Hiraishi H*, Akabayov B, Luna LE, Markus M, Bedoya E, Ikeda Y, Watanabe R, Yu C, Alikhan S, Wagner, G.Asano K. Eukaryotic initiation factor 1A binds eIF5 at a site also targeted by eIF1. Biochemistry December 31; 52 (52): 9510-8 (2013).
Luna RE*, Arthanari H*, Hiraishi H, Nanda J, Martin-Marcos P, Markus MA, Akabayov B, Milbradt AG, Luna LE, Seo H-C, Hyberts SG, Farmy A, Reibarkh M, Miles D, Hagner PR, O’Day EM, Yi T, Marintchev A, Hinnebusch A, Lorsch J, Asano K, Wagner G, C-terminal domain of eukaryotic initiation factor 5 promotes start codon recognition by its dynamic interplay with eIF1 and eIF2-beta. Cell Reports June 28; 1(6):689-702 (2012).
Melancon JM, Luna RE, Foster TP, Kousoulas KG. 2005 Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 HSV-1 Glycoprotein K ,gK, is Required for Glycoprotein B gB-mediated Virus-Induced Cell Fusion, and gB and gK do not Function Redundantly in Virion De-Envelopment. Journal of Virology January;791:299-313, (2005).
Luna RE, Zhou F, Baghian A, Chouljenko V, Forghani B, Gao SJ, Kousoulas KG. Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Glycoprotein K8.1 is Dispensable for Viral Entry. Journal of Virology June;7812:6389-6398, (2004).
Undergraduate and Post-Baccalaureate Research
Galatteau-Salle FB, Luna RE, Horiba K, Sheppard MN, Hayashi T, Fleming MV, Colby TV, Bennett W, Harris CC, Stetler-Stevenson WG, Liotta L, Ferrans VJ, Travis WD. Matrix metalloproteinases and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases in bronchial squamous preinvasive lesions. Human Pathology. March; 313:296-305, (2000).
Hilbert SL, Luna RE, Zhang J, Wang Y, Hopkins RA, Yu ZX, Ferrans VJ. Allograft heart Valves: The role of apoptosis-mediated cell loss. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery March; 1173:454-62, (1999).
Segura AM, Luna RE, Horiba K, Stetler-Stevenson WG, McAllister HA Jr, Willerson JT, Ferrans VJ. Immunohistochemistry of matrix metallo-proteinases and their inhibitors in thoracic aortic aneurysms and aortic valves of patients with Marfan’s Syndrome. Circulation November; 10; 98 19Suppl:II331-7; discII337-8, (1998).
(*Represents Co-First Authors)
Academic and Professional Honors
1995-1997 NIH-NHLBI Minority Biomedical Research Training Program
1997 NHLBI-Special Achievement Award in Cardiac and Pulmonary Pathology
1998-2001 Louisiana State University-Board of Regents Graduate Fellow
1999-2003 NIH-NIAID Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Graduate Research Fellow)
2003-2004 Louisiana Biomedical Research Network Graduate Assistantship
2004 Certificate for Research Excellence—Division of Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
2004 Minority Trainee Research Forum Award—Winner National Abstract competition
2004-2006 Society for Neuroscience Travel Fellowship
2005-2006 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, NIH-NIGMS-Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research
2006 National Institute of Science & Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Honor Society–3rd Place Award for Outstanding Research Manuscript and Presentation at 63rd Joint Meeting
2007-2009 NIH-NIGMS Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award– Individual NRSA- Postdoctoral Research Fellow
2007 Minority Trainee Research Forum Award—Winner National Abstract competition
2008 Postdoctoral Travel Award, Keystone Symposia Scholarship Winner-(Abstract)–Jan28-Feb2, 2008-Translational Regulatory Mechanisms Symposium
2008-2011 Leader & Organizer, Minority Biomedical Scientists of Harvard (MBSH), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
2008-2011 Co-Chair & Governing Board Member, Minority Biomedical Scientists of Harvard (MBSH), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
2009 Postdoctoral Travel Grant Recipient (Spring term)-Harvard University-wide Postdoc competition
2013-present Founding Chair, of the Harvard Medical School Society of Translational and Academic
Researchers (STARs) for underrepresented postdoctoral research fellows, Boston, MA
2013-present Planning Committee, New England Science Symposium at Harvard Medical School for underrepresented biomedical research trainees to showcase their research, Boston, MA
2015 Life Science Diversity Fellow, Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology (1 of 6 selected from a nationwide selection process), Keystone, CO
2015-present Board Member, Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Research Support and/or Scholastic Performance
R01 CA068262-17 (PI: Gerhard Wagner, PhD)
Mechanisms of Eukaryotic Translation Initiation
The goal of this project was to develop a mechanistic understanding of translation initiation in eukaryotes using studies of structures and interactions of proteins that play key roles in eukaryotic translation initiation.
Role: Research Fellow
Period of funding: 3/1/06 – 1/31/16
F32 GM079970 (PI: Rafael E. Luna, PhD)
Roles of Human eIF1 in Translation Preinitiation Complex Assembly
The goal of this project was to map the multiple faces of the human elF1/elF5 complex, which provided an invaluable insight into the assembly of the human translation pre-initiation complex and start codon recognition. Insights into the structural interactions of the elF1/elF5-CTD sub-complex may eventually lead to the future development of small molecule inhibitors to modulate human translation initiation leading to novel, robust pharmaceutical drugs to treat cancer.
Role: Principal Investigator
Period of funding for F32 NRSA: 7/1/07 – 6/30/09
P01GM047467-16 (PI: Gerhard Wagner, PhD)
NMR and Computational Studies of Biomolecules
NIH-NIGMS-ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPLEMENT TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY: NIH diversity supplement to a project program grant
The goals of the proposed research were three fold. First, to improve NMR and computational methods. Second, to improve of methods for expressing difficult isotope-labeled proteins in large quantities suitable for NMR experiments. Third, this effort was shared and applied to studies of large systems containing DNA repair proteins, and as a challenging and medically important system, and was pursued by a structural study of the bacterial EntF protein of 142 kDa.
Role: Underrepresented Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Period of funding for Diversity Supplement: 6/1/05 –5/31/07
RO1-AI43000 (PI: Konstantin Gus Kousoulas, PhD)
Genetics and Functions of HSV-1 GK in Virus Entry and Egress
NIH-NIAID-ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPLEMENT TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY IN HEALTH-RELATED RESEARCH: NIH minority/diversity supplement to an R01 grant
Role: Underrepresented Minority Graduate Research Fellow
Period of funding for Diversity Supplement: 1999-2003