Luna Lab for RNA Systems Virology Dept. of Biochemistry & RNA Center, Case Western Reserve University

Dr. Joseph Luna is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Center for RNA Science and Therapeutics at Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine. Captivated by viruses and their potential to unlock cellular secrets, Joe spends most of his time devising creative ways to use viruses as tools to uncover how cells work. His research focuses on the host proteins that RNA virus genomes use for replication and how cells sense invading viral genomes to initiate immune responses.

A native of El Paso, Texas, Joe’s spark for moleuclar biology began at age 10 watching the movie Jurassic Park. As a first-generation college student, he earned his B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 2006 where he first picked up a pipette working with Dr. Thomas Biederer. His journey in virology began with a Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) fellowship with Dr. Walther Mothes at Yale, studying anti-retroviral restriction factors.

Joe received his Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University in 2015, training with Drs. Robert Darnell and Charlie Rice. There, he pioneered the use of next-generation sequencing methods to unravel small RNA interactions during hepatitis C virus infection. He stayed in the Rice lab for his postdoc, where he applied systems-level approaches to explore host-pathogen interactions at the RNA level in various disease-relevant settings, from COVID-19 to liver cancer. His research has been published in several high-profile journals, including Cell, PLoS Pathogens, and Science.

With over 15 years of experience in virology, bioinformatics, RNA and cancer biology, Dr. Luna combines wet and dry lab approaches to understand host-viral processes at a systems scale. His independent laboratory at CWRU is developing innovative tools to study RNA-protein interactions with unprecedented subcellular resolution, aiming to uncover new therapeutic strategies for viral infections and RNA-related disorders.

As an educator, Joe is committed to creating inclusive learning environments that introduce students from diverse backgrounds to think like scientists, and to train the next generation of RNA biologists and molecular virologists. His approach emphasizes creative problem-solving, interdisciplinary thinking, and the excitement of discovery in the world of RNA and viruses.

Outside the lab, Joe enjoys letterpress printing, playing guitar, running, and cooking.

Search for Joseph Luna's papers on the Research page

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