Zhao Lai, PhD

  • Rank: Assistant Professor/Research
  • Department: Joint with Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
  • Office: 4.100.14
  • Location: Greehey CCRI
  • Tel: 1.210.562.9246


Dr. Zhao Lai is Director of Genome Sequencing Facility (GSF) in the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute (Greehey CCRI) at UT Health San Antonio. Dr. Lai holds a Ph.D in Developmental Biology with more than 20 years of extensive research experience, and have authored or coauthored more than 30 peer-reviewed research articles. Dr. Lai was a research scientist as Functional Genomics Unit Leader in The Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Indiana University, where she started to use next generation sequencer from Roche 454 to Illumina Genome Analyzer and HiSeq platforms. Whiling leading the Functional Genomics team and managing large-scale next generation sequencing (NGS) activities of an NSF grant, she has acquired hands-on knowledge and expertise in high-throughput sequencing sample preparation, instrument operation, technology development, biological application, and associated basic bioinformatics studies.

Dr. Lai was fascinated on the NGS technology development and applications, and decided to lead the new established GSF in GCCRI at UT Health San Antonio in 2011. At the GSF, she oversees the operational activities of the GSF, including project budgeting and coordination, equipment purchase and maintenance, hiring, training and the supervision of staff scientists. Dr. Lai has actively developed and maintained effective communication skills with project investigators, scientists and students from experimental design through subsequent data interpretation of experiments. She has been leveraging her experience to establish and manage internal and external collaborations with high-throughput sample preparation and large-scale sequencing (genome, transcriptome, exome, methylome, ChIP, small RNA, targeted genome, metagenomics).

Under her leadership, with the data generated from the GSF, supported by the analytic and bioinformatics division at GCCRI, The NGS has quickly become essential tool for support of many predominately NIH and CPRIT funded projects at UT Health San Antonio, and the GSF has contributed significantly to the biomedical genomic research with many high impact publications. In 2016, Dr. Lai was awarded $600,000 NIH Shared Instrument grant (S10) to purchase Illumina HiSeq 3000 to upgrade the sequencing platform of GSF.



Dr. Zhao Lai, joined the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute in October of 2011 with major responsibilities as Director of newly established Genome Sequencing Facility (GSF) to lead the next generation sequencing (NGS) efforts at UT Health San Antonio. She received her doctoral degree on Developmental Biology from Dr. Yongbiao Xue’s lab at the Institute of Developmental Biology and Genetics, Chinese Academy of Sciences and completed the post-doctoral fellowship from Dr. Loren Rieseberg’s lab on Evolutionary/Functional genomics at Indiana University Bloomington.



NGS technology development and applications

Genome Sequencing Facility




Funding Agency 1S10OD021805-01 NIH
Title High Throughput DNA Sequencer: Illumina HiSeq 3000 Sequencer
Status Active Active
Period 2016/04/01-2017/03/31
Role Principal Investigator
Grant Detail This is a Shared Instrumentation Grant. This grant provides funding towards to purchase an Illumina HiSeq 3000 to upgrade the NGS platform at UT Health San Antonio.

Funding Agency 2 P30 CA054174, NIH/NCI
Title Cancer Therapy and Research Center/Cancer Center Admin
Status Active Active
Period 2014/05/01-2019/04/30
Role Director of Next Generation Sequencing Shared Resource
Grant Detail This is a P30 Cancer Center Support Grant at the UT Health San Antonio. This grant provides funding for the conduct of cancer clinical trials, prevention studies and assistance with statistical design and analysis of translational cancer research projects. Specifically, this is for support of the next generation sequencing core.

Funding Agency R21 AI11734101A1, NIH/NIAID
Title Pan-Fungal Essential Gene Discovery for Antifungal Targeting
Status Active Active
Period 2015/07/01-2017/12/31
Role Key Personnel
Grant Detail The overall goal of this grant is to identify essential fungal genes using a capture probe strategy combined with next generation sequencing.


Funding Agency Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas - RP160732
Title UT Health San Antonio Cancer Genome Sequencing and Computation Core
Status Active Active
Period 2016/06/01-2021/05/31
Role Co-Investigator/Sequencing Leader
Grant Detail This is a CPRIT Core Facility Award to support updating and expanding NGS capacity in Cancer Therapy and Research Center of UT Health San Antonio. My role as Co-Investigator is to lead the sequencing activities.