2023 RNA Institute Annual Symposium Highlights RNA Research and Therapeutic Advances in New York

Six people in business attire and lanyards pose in the UAlbany Student Union. Behind them is a digital sign that reads "Welcome to the Great Dane Union", and "Welcome Great Danes" is painted on the wall above.
Leadership teams from the RNA Institute of University at Albany and the Center for RNA Biology at the University of Rochester. From left: Dr. Thomas Begley, Dr. David Mathews, Dr. Lynne Maquat, Dr. Marlene Belfort, Dr. Eric Wagner, and Dr. Andrew Berglund
By Sangeetha Selvam, PhD, The RNA Institute

The 2023 RNA Institute Annual symposium hosted by the RNA Institute at the University at Albany (UAlbany) in collaboration with the Center for RNA Biology at the University of Rochester brought together industry experts, renowned academic professors, and trainees in a dynamic event that showcased the latest research and innovation in the RNA world. The leadership team from both institutions came together to conduct this year’s meeting centered on highlighting the numerous connections between academia and industry in New York State.  The event, held on March 16th and 17th at UAlbany, hosted speakers from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies as well as academic institutions across New York State.

The symposium began with welcome remarks from the Director of the RNA Institute Dr. Andrew Berglund, the UAlbany Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Dr. Jeanette Altarriba and NYS Assemblymember John T. McDonald III. These speakers highlighted the power of RNA research in both academic and industry settings to make an impact on the health and economy of New York State.

The symposium coincided with a legislative push from both the RNA Institute and the Center for RNA Biology to establish an official New York State Center of Excellence in RNA Research and Therapeutics (CERRT). The Center of Excellence will tap the existing deep reservoir of expertise and resources at UAlbany and UR to drive economic development through applied RNA research and by training the next generation of RNA industry workers.

A crowd of people sit in an auditorium looking attentively ahead at the 2023 RNA Institute Annual Symposium
2023 RNA Institute Annual Symposium

The second day of the symposium was presided over by RNA Institute senior advisor, Dr. Marlene Belfort, and the Center for RNA Biology Director Dr. Lynne Maquat and showcased the long-standing collaboration between the scientists of UAlbany and Rochester. Dr. Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, Vice-President of the Research and Economic Development, also addressed the audience and highlighted the significance of RNA research and its potential to address some of the major challenges New York State is currently facing.

A diverse array of speakers, ranging from seasoned scientists to up-and-coming trainees, shared their insights and experiences in RNA sciences with a captivated audience over two days in the UAlbany campus center. The event was attended by more than 250 participants from 26 academic institutions and 14 companies, including global leaders such as Regeneron and Pfizer, as well as academic-based startups, such as CodoMax, Scriptr and SupreMEtric. These talks covered a range of topics, from cutting-edge technologies to emerging therapeutic developments in the field of RNA research.

Our invited speakers include:

  • Doug Anderson (Scriptr Global)
  • Thomas Begley (University at Albany SUNY)
  • Georges Belfort (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
  • Suzanne Hartford (Regeneron Pharmaceuticals)
  • Lynne Maquat (University of Rochester Medical Center)
  • Anne Messer (Neural Stem Cell Institute)
  • Jessican Pecone (Quadrant Biosciences)
  • Leah Sabin (Regeneron Pharmaceuticals)
  • Joanna Sztuba-Solinska (Pfizer)
  • Nilgun Tasdemir (Pfizer)
  • Scott Tenenbaum (sxRNA Technologies, LLC)
  • Martin Tenniswood (miR Scientific)
  • Alexis Weber (SupreMEtric LLC)

In keeping with the Institute’s theme of “training the next generation of RNA researchers”, the symposium also featured numerous trainees presenting their latest research in either trainee talks, lightning talks, or a poster session. These presentations were impressive in their scope and quality and demonstrated the tremendous potential of our up-and-coming researchers who are soon to enter the workforce. Trainee sessions covered a wide range of topics, from cellular biology to translational research and showcased the breadth and depth of research being conducted in New York State. The poster session, held at New York State Capital Museum in downtown Albany, featured over 120 posters by trainees and participants. The poster session provided an excellent opportunity for trainees to interact with academic and industry experts, discuss their work, exchange ideas, and make plans for future collaborations or employment opportunities.

To further highlight New York’s cutting-edge biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, the symposium also featured a career panel roundtable discussion on March 16 moderated by Associate Director Dr. Tom Begley. At this event panelists from across a variety of industries who were RNA Institute alumni spoke about their experiences and working in an industry setting. This event was designed to provide current trainees with an appreciation for current potential and demands of industry and to help provide them with insights on how to succeed in the growing RNA industry sector.

The symposium concluded with an award ceremony, highlighting the best oral and poster presentations as well as awards to both RNA Institute and Center for RNA Biology faculty and trainees. The awards ceremony was hosted by former UAlbany CAS Dean and Institute supporter Dr. Elga Wulfert, Institute Associate Director, Tom Begley, and Center for RNA Biology Director, Lynne Maquat.

Overall, the symposium was a resounding success, bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders to share their knowledge, insights, and experiences. The event provided a valuable opportunity for attendees to connect with one another, learn about the latest developments in the field, and explore new ideas and opportunities. The Symposium also served as an excellent example of the power of RNA research to drive forward economic development in New York and will help bolster the case for a Center of Excellence in RNA Research and Therapeutics. This symposium was truly an event for the books, showcasing a long-standing collaboration between the RNA scientists from the University at Albany’s RNA Institute and the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology.