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UAlbany Young Scientist Named 2014 Pew Scholar for Stem Cell Research

Prashanth Rangan of the Department of Biological Sciences, named a 2014 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 24, 2014) — UAlbany biologist Prashanth Rangan joined 21 other outstanding early-career researchers named today as 2014 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Rangan was awarded for his investigations into the role of non-coding RNA in the fate of stem cells, whose improper differentiation has been linked to cancer and other degenerative disease.

Since 1985, the Pew’s scholars program has supported top U.S. scientists who, like Rangan, are at the assistant professor level. Honorees receive funding over four years to sow innovation at the start of their research careers. Rangan will receive a four-year grant total of $240,000.

Rangan joined The RNA Institute at UAlbany in 2012, where he continued his investigations into the mechanisms governing the biology of stem cells. He established a new paradigm for the role of RNA in the regulation of gene expression in germ-line stem cells using innovative and quantitative biology.

The germ cell, which Rangan calls the “ultimate stem cell,” is able to develop into any cell type and does not die. His laboratory in The RNA Institute focuses on when, where and how specific messenger RNAs are “read” to produce a protein during germ cell development. While non-coding RNA sequences do not produce proteins, they direct which proteins are made during different stages of this development.

Using a combination of biophysics, genetics, and molecular and structural biology techniques, Rangan’s laboratory will alter these non-coding sequences and assess how RNA regulation plays into a germ cell’s genetic flexibility. The findings may lead to insights into the biology of other stem cells that have the therapeutical potential to fight disease.

“I think this is a wonderful honor and definitely a stepping stone into the research community that will enable Dr. Rangan to participate in larger research projects and funding,” said Paul Agris, director of The RNA Institute.

Rangan and the other 21 researchers named this year join a community of more than 500 Pew Scholars whose ranks include multiple recipients of Nobel Prizes, Lasker Awards, and MacArthur Fellowships. Scholars are selected based on proven creativity by a national advisory committee composed of eminent scientists, including chairman Dr. Craig C. Mello, a 1995 Pew scholar and a 2006 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine.

Rangan, received a doctorate in biophysics from the Johns Hopkins University in 2004, working with Dr. Sarah Woodson. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of former Pew Scholar advisor Dr. Ruth Lehmann at the Skirball Institute of New York University until 2012, when he joined UAlbany’s Department of Biological Sciences.

The Pew Charitable Trusts' press release on the nation's most recently honored outstanding early-career biomedical researchers can be read here.

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