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Leading RNA Researchers Partner to Pursue Biomedical Technologies at UAlbany

November International RNA Symposium Advances Collaborations

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 27, 2011) – Five University at Albany scientists have launched novel partnerships with researchers from the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; UMass Amherst; and Williams College to advance ribonucleic acid (RNA) biomedical technologies. The goal of these collaborations is to advance research into RNA and its implications for innovative medicines and technologies. RNA technologies have shown promise in efforts to treat diseases including cancers, neurological conditions, and drug-resistant bacterial and viral infections.

The inter-institutional collaborations will also be one of the topics shared at the UAlbany RNA Institute's  November 3 and 4 international symposium, "RNA Science and its Applications: A Look Toward the Future."  The conference will bring together some of the world's foremost RNA experts in academia and the pharmaceutical industry, and convene the Institute's newly appointed Scientific Advisory Board whose members represent entrepreneurial leaders in the scientific and biomedical research areas.

The studies will explore early-stage, interdisciplinary research projects with the potential of generating external research funding or commercial applications of RNA technologies. Each project involves collaborating researchers with complementary approaches at partner institutions.

The collaborators include:

Paul F. Agris, Biological Sciences and Chemistry with Kathleen McDonough, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health

Multi-drug resistant gram-positive infections are an enormous problem in terms of treating exposure. In collaboration with McDonough, Agris is uncovering a new class of small molecules unlikely to cause mutation-based antibiotic resistance. The chemical and physical space of the target of intervention will be described in detail, and biological assays to screen small molecule inhibitors of tRNA binding to it will be developed.

Daniele Fabris, Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences, with Joseph Wade and Kathleen McDonough, the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health

Proteins interact with RNA to control gene expression but are often not characterized. This is particularly important for understanding RNA mechanisms of action in normal and human disease conditions. Fabris, Wade and McDonough are partnering to develop an innovative approach to characterize such interactions.

Igor Lednev, Department of Chemistry with Paul Agris, RNA Institute and Angel Garcia, RPI

Technology development is one of the missions of The RNA Institute. Technologies well-established for the study of DNA and proteins must be developed for the study of RNA in order to advance RNA as a novel therapeutic target. Lednev, in collaboration with Agris and Garcia, will demonstrate the potential of ultraviolet resonance Raman (UVRR) spectroscopy for characterization of RNA structure and its functional interaction with proteins.

Pan T.X. Li, Department of Biological Sciences with Lori Goldner, UMass Amherst and Daniel Aalberts, Williams College

Knowledge of RNA structures is critical for gaining insights into RNA cellular functions and for possible therapeutic applications of RNA. Li, in collaboration with Goldner and Aalberts, uses state-of-the art single molecule spectroscopy equipment built in his lab to gain information about tertiary folding of RNA to address one of the bottlenecks of RNA biology - predicting the normal and abnormal functioning 3D structures of RNA molecules.

Carla Theimer, Department of Chemistry with Scott Tenenbaum, College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering

Exploiting RNAs control of gene expression enables new avenues for therapeutic approaches to human health problems. Theimer and Tenenbaum are collaborating to combine their expertise in a multidisciplinary program to exploit RNA to understand regulation of gene expression.

The RNA Institute at the University at Albany was launched in June 2010. It brings together leading researchers from higher education and other institutions, and offers advanced facilities for early phase RNA-based drug discovery.

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