Modern biology has been revolutionized by the discovery that many processes of fundamental importance are regulated by RNA molecules. We continue to realize the potential of RNA regulatory mechanisms, illuminating biology and advancing medicine through development of new RNA therapeutics. Major knowledge gaps remain in the basic, diagnostic and therapeutic areas of RNA biology, and much remains to be discovered about mechanisms of RNA regulation and their impact on biology and disease.
What is RNA?
Riboucleic Acid (RNA) is a type of molecule in cells that performs several functions. RNA transmits messages encoded in DNA to their protein form. Many cellular machines are made of RNA and perform specialized functions. The “NA” in DNA and RNA indicates they both are created in the nucleus, but unlike DNA, RNA can be found throughout the cell.
RNA biology has emerged as one of the most influential areas in modern biology and clinical science. The discovery of numerous new classes of RNAs and their function in a wide spectrum of biological processes has revolutionized molecular biology and has profound implications for clinical sciences. Key areas of current research include the elucidation of RNA biogenesis and structure, the identification of functions for various classes of RNAs, establishing the role of RNA in disease, and the exploration of RNA-based- and RNA-targeted therapies.
Researchers have only scratched the tip of the iceberg in realizing the potential of RNA regulatory mechanisms to illuminate biology and advance medicine through development of new therapeutics. RNA therapeutics have the potential to revolutionize development of new treatments as strategies can be implemented to target virtually any disease or process through a common target, RNA.
What is the role of the RBI?
The RNA Bioscience Initiative was started in January 2016 with $20 million in funding from the Dean’s Office of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The mission of the RNA Bioscience Initiative is to understand the role of RNA in biology, engage in collaborative research, apply approaches from basic science to clinical efforts, and train the next generation of researchers.
The RNA Bioscience Initiative is making substantial and sustained contributions to answering these questions:
- What are the RNAs that drive biological outcomes in healthy and diseased cells, how does their expression change, and how is this regulated?
- What are the downstream biological effects that are driven by diverse RNAs, and how are these RNA-based processes regulated?
- How do RNAs elicit their effects and what are the details of their mechanisms of action?
- Can we exploit this knowledge to create better RNA-based research tools, diagnostics, and therapies that either use RNA or target it?
Investigators on campus have already made important discoveries in the field, covering RNA structure-function, RNA biogenesis, non-coding regulatory RNAs in disease, RNA methods development and mechanisms of regulation by non-coding RNAs.
The Anschutz Medical Campus and the region offer existing strengths that will allow this initiative to excel. The University of Colorado has a storied history in RNA research and its transition to startup biotechnology companies. The academic environment and collegiality among RNA biologists in Colorado is stronger than ever. In addition, CU Innovations has extensive experience in obtaining intellectual property in RNA diagnostics and therapeutics and has spearheaded the transition of these discoveries into the marketplace.