Lukai Zhai, Ph.D.

Lukai Zhai, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral fellow, Krawczyk Laboratory


Dr. Lukai Zhai earned his B.S. in biotechnology from Shandong Normal University and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from Michigan Technological University. His graduate work focused on developing next-generation thermostable HPV L2 vaccines to protect against both oral and genital infections with diverse HPV types using the bacteriophage MS2 virus-like particle (VLP) platform. He has extensive technical lab skills, including DNA cloning, Western blot, ELISA, immunoprecipitation (IP) and co-IP, ChIP-PCR, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), gold nanoparticle staining, cell culture and transfection, and HPV pseudovirus production and purification. In 2019, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Connie Krawczyk at Van Andel Institute as a postdoctoral fellow.


Current research focus

Histone H3 lysine 4 demethylase KDM5C/D functions in dendritic cells

Education & Training

Ph.D. in biological sciences, Michigan Technological University (Advisor: Dr. Ebenezer Tumban)
Thesis: A broadly protective thermostable next generation HPV vaccine based on a concatemer peptide and a consensus peptide of L2 displayed on bacteriophage virus-like particles

B.S. in biotechnology, Shandong Normal University (China)

Awards & External Funding

2019 graduate school finishing fellowship (Michigan Tech University)

Among top 10% Teaching Assistant Instructors at MTU, “average of 7 dimensions”, in Fall 2015, Fall 2016 and Fall 2017.

First prize, best oral presentation at the Michigan branch meeting of American Society for Microbiology at Lake Superior State University, Spring 2016

Biological Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award Recipient, MTU, Spring 2016.

“Guanghua” research scholarship, Shandong University, China, 2013


To view a list of selected publications click below.

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Zhai L, Yadav R, Kunda N, Anderson D, Bruckner E, Miller E, Basu B, Muttil P, Tumban E. 2019. Oral immunization with bacteriophage MS2-L2 VLPs protects against oral and genital infection with multiple HPV types associated with head and neck cancers and cervical cancer. Antiviral Res 166:56–65.

Kunda N, Peabody P, Zhai L, Price D, Chackerian B, Tumban E, Muttil P. 2018. Evaluation of the thermal stability and the protective efficacy of liquid and spray-dried HPV vaccine, Gardasil® 9. Hum Vaccin Immunother 18:1–8.

Basu R, Zhai L, Contreras A, Tumban E. 2018. Immunization with phage virus-like particles displaying Zika virus B-cell epitopes neutralizes Zika virus infection of monkey kidney cells. Vaccine 36(10):1256–1264.

Zhai L, Peabody J, Pang YS, Schiller J, Chackerian B, Tumban E. 2017. A novel candidate MS2 phage VLP vaccine displaying a tandem HPV L2 peptide offers similar protection in mice to Gardasil-9. Antiviral Research 147:116–123.

Zhai L, Tumban E. 2016. Gardasil-9: A global survey of projected efficacy. Antiviral Research 130:101–109.

Chen B., Ma X., Geng Z., Huang S., Zhai L., Guo Y., and Chen Z. 2015. Up-regulation of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase-interacting protein 3 (JIP3) contributes to BDNF-enhanced neurotransmitter release. Journal of Neurochemistry 135:453–465

Sun T., Yu N., Zhai L., Li N., Zhang C., Zhou L., Huang Z., Jiang X., Shen Y., and Chen Z. 2013. c- Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK)-interacting protein-3 (JIP3) regulates neuronal axon elongation in a kinesin-and JNK-dependent manner. Journal of Biological Chemistry M113. 464453

Society Memberships

American Society for Virology (ASV)

American Association of Immunologists (AAI)