Radhika Kunnel: Striving for an Equal and Just America

3 years ago / by Bhargavi Kulkarni

When she was in an eighth grade biology class in India, Radhika Kunnel knew she wanted to be a genetic engineer. That dream brought her to the U.S. Now with a robust professional career spanning several years, coupled with activism, Kunnel is running for a seat in the Nevada’s state assembly from District 2. She moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, about three years ago from Mississippi. Kunnel, a former cancer biology professor, recently earned her law degree from the Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

In the Democratic primary, earlier this year, Kunnel defeated Jennie Sherwood, Eva Littman and Joe Valdes. She is facing Republican Heidi Kasama in the general election. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, “Republicans hold a slight voter registration advantage in the district as of August, with 37 percent of voters registered as Republicans and 35 percent as Democrats.”

Both Kunnel and Kasama are newcomers and are vying for Assemblyman John Hambrick’s seat. Hambrick, who served as speaker of the Assembly in 2015, is termed-out and unable to run again.

Kunnel’s priorities include educational equity, healthcare for all, public safety, economy, transparency in the judicial system, and the environment and judicial energy. Apart from her professional accomplishments, Kunnel has been an advocate for domestic violence survivors and victims of child abuse. She is a parliamentarian with the American Association of Asian Pacific Islanders – Democratic Caucus for Las Vegas, as well as a candidate for Emerge Nevada – class of 2020.

Professionally, Kunnel has worked as a tenured associate professor in the department of biochemistry and the Cancer Institute at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and in the department of pharmacology and the Tulane Cancer Institute at the Tulane University of Health Sciences.

Kunnel was instrumental in developing non-embryonic stem cell core at both Tulane and UMMC. Her research interest was to establish personalized therapeutics for solid tumors by targeting the tumor stroma and cancer stem cells.

Kunnel completed her master’s degree and doctorate in cancer biology at Louisiana State University, New Orleans. She did her post-doctoral fellowship in adult stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at Tulane. Before moving to the United States, she did a master’s degree at the University of Baroda, India.

She is married to Regi Kunnel and has two children, William and Andrew.