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New Researchers Bringing Specialized Expertise to The RNA Institute

Four new researchers who are joining The RNA Institute following postdoctoral fellowships are, clockwise from upper right, Mehmet Yigit, Cara Pager, Maksim Royzen, and Prashanth Rangan.

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 18, 2012) – The University at Albany welcomes four new RNA science and technology researchers this year to The RNA Institute. The scientists further expand a growing team of investigators advancing the potential of RNA research for the development and delivery of innovative medicines, vaccines and diagnostics.

The new researchers join UAlbany following postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford, NYU School of Medicine, MIT, and Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, respectively. They are:

  • Cara Pager, an RNA virologist specializing in the role of RNA in the virus that causes hepatitis C, an infectious liver disease. It is estimated that some two million people in the U.S. and 170 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis C. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and her Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky.
  • Prashanth Rangan, a biologist who investigates the mechanisms governing the biology of stem cells. Rangan 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. He earned his bachelor's in technology degree at Anna University in Chennai, India, and his Ph.D. in biophysics at John Hopkins University.
  • Maksim Royzen, a chemist who works on the development of new chemical technologies for visualizing RNA in cells and improving disease diagnoses. He has patented technology in this area and spun it out into a start-up company. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry at Dartmouth College and his Ph.D. in chemistry at New York University.
  • Mehmet Yigit, whose research interests focus on the development and application of metallic and polymeric nanomaterials for diagnosis, imaging, and treatment of cancer. He earned his bachelor's in chemistry at Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, his master's in chemistry and biochemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and his Ph.D. in biophysics and computational biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Pager, Rangan and Yigit have begun their new positions at UAlbany, while Royzen will assume his position as an assistant professor in UAlbany's Department of Chemistry in January 2013. Pager and Rangan are assistant professors in the Department of Biological Sciences. Yigit is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

"We are so fortunate to have attracted four extraordinary researchers from outstanding institutions to join The RNA Institute, and the Biology and Chemistry departments at UAlbany,” said Paul Agris, director of The RNA Institute. “Their research exemplifies the Institute’s ongoing evolution as New York’s national research resource for RNA science, and its applications to drug discovery and the development of diagnostics and technologies."

Launched in June 2010, The RNA Institute brings together more than 48 investigators from UAlbany's College of Arts and Sciences, College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and School of Public Health, and regional institutions including the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Albany Medical College.

The RNA Institute offers advanced facilities, including a Mass Spectrometry Center and high-end computational equipment, to support the many research projects underway. The Institute has attracted more than $14 million in research support from the state and federal governments, and private corporations.

The new construction of the Institute's main facility in UAlbany's Life Sciences Research Building began this summer. The research facility will be similar to those found in modern pharmaceutical companies, with open, interactive space to promote collaboration and synergies, and sustainability built into the complete mobility of laboratory benches and walls.

Learn more about The RNA Institute scientific team and the implications of its cutting-edge research for development and delivery of innovative medicines, vaccines and diagnostics.


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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.