It has been a busy and rewarding year here at the RNA Institute. We are now 54 affiliated faculty members strong, 30 of whom are right here in the capital region and 24 of whom are located nationally and internationally. Additionally, we have searched for 2 more faculty members and will have a decision on at least one by May 9th. In the past year, our Institute staff team has also grown. We welcomed Maria Basanta-Sanchez, Ken Halvorsen, and Sri Vembanur Ranganathan who are already working enthusiastically on various collaborations with our faculty. Lisset Drislane and Lori Chertoff also joined our team, providing financial management, administrative and creative support to Institute programs.
Our scientific staff are working on many collaborative grant applications with Institute affiliated faculty and corporate partners. Maria Basanta-Sanchez in collaboration with Athghin, a start-up company located in New York State, recently submitted a STTR to develop tools for monitoring RNA modifications in human pluripotent stem cell-derived neural cells treated with drugs of abuse.
Marlene Belfort is leading a proposal for a NIH T32 RNA training grant that will be submitted in May. The grant involves 31 participating faculty in two local Institutions and three departments to provide funding for a predoctoral training program in RNA Biology.
The Institute is submitting a NIH Biomedical Technology Research Resource (BTRR) program project grant pre-proposal in May. The grant provides funding to create tools that can substantially improve present approaches to a wide variety of problems in the biomedical sciences. The goal of the funding is to drive a virtuous cycle in which technological advances facilitate biomedical inquiry, leading to new questions which in turn motivate further technical innovation. This would be accomplished through a synergistic interaction of technical and biomedical expertise, both within the Institute and through intensive collaborations with other leading laboratories. The grant would fund transformative technological advances at the Institute that open new lines of biomedical inquiry. The Institute would be the resource that would develop the technologies and then export those technologies and the expertise into the broader research community through training and dissemination. Maria, Ken, and Sri are seeking input from potential collaborators who may have an interest in being a driving biomedical project that provides a context for the demonstration, integration, and refinement of the technologies.
Also, planning for next year’s Sigma Symposium and CRISPR workshop is already underway. Please stay tuned for further information! Changes on are website are also proceeding as we endeavor to increase usability and cultivate communication. Now on our website, you can learn about all of the equipment at the Institute and how to initiate collaboration. We invite you to peruse the website and as always to share your thoughts and insights with staff and myself. In fact on May 9th we will be having an open meeting in the D’Ambra Auditorium to bring faculty, postdocs, and students up-to-date on the RNA Institute initiatives. Together, we can make each year more rewarding and productive than the last.