2018 Updates


Dear RNA Colleagues –

This has been another exciting year for RNA Biology at Duke and the triangle area.  We wanted to share some highlights as well as make a few announcements:

North Carolina Symposium on RNA Biology XII: One of the highlights this year was the North Carolina Symposium on RNA Biology XII which was held on the UNC campus on October 19th -20th. This biannual meeting of the North Carolina RNA society brought nearly 200 scientists from across academia, industry, and government to the triangle. The meeting showcased sessions on RNA structure, alternative splicing, regulatory RNAs, and ribonucleoprotein machines. Oral presentations selected from submitted abstracts provided the conference attendees with exciting talks on new directions being explored in RNA research. Attendees also enjoyed a lively poster session with over 65 poster presentations and a symposium banquet. We hope that you will join us in North Carolina for the next meeting in 2019, which will be held at Duke! More information will be forthcoming.

Launching the Distinguished Lecture in RNA Biology: We are pleased to announce that the Center for RNA Biology is co-sponsoring an annual Distinguished Lecturer in RNA Biology, selected and hosted by trainees in the Center.  For the inaugural speaker, a committee of five graduate students (Alyson Hoffman, Nandan Gokhale, Steven Choi, Laura Ganser, and Emily McFadden) have selected Dr. Lynne Maquat (University of Rochester). Dr. Maquat has pioneered studies on RNA decay pathways, including the discovery nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Her seminar will be held on Thursday March 14, 2019, in Nanaline 147 in conjunction with the Thursday Series. Please mark your calendars!

RNA Journal Club: We would like to remind trainees about the RNA Journal Club;  a student-initiated journal club covering a broad range of topics within the field of RNA biology. Each month a student selects an article they would like to discuss with their peers. The paper, along with relevant background, is shared with the group one week prior to discussion. Overall this has been a great way to both learn about different areas of RNA biology and meet people within the RNA community at Duke. Journal club discussions are catered by Guasaca. The club meets the last Tuesday of every month. If you are interested in joining this group please contact Alyson Hoffman (alyson.hoffman@duke.edu).

Increase in funds to help support student/postdoc travel to conferences: We are pleased to announce an increase in the funds available to help cover travel costs for students and postdoctoral fellows who wish to present RNA-related research at conferences. The Center can cover up to $500 for national or international meetings. To apply for a travel award, please email Sharon Whitesell (sharon.whitesell@duke.edu) a title and abstract and information regarding the conference and its relevance to RNA research. Awardees will be asked to take a photograph of themselves at the conference and share with us so that we can add it to the Center webpage. Below is a sampling of recent travel award recipients that showcases the diversity of RNA research at Duke.

Emily McFadden, Ph.D. Candidate (Hargrove Lab)
23rd Annual Meeting of the RNA Society, Berkeley, California May 29-June 3, 2018
Title: Exploring Secondary and Tertiary Structural Motifs in Long Non-coding RNA
Emily McFadden, Anita Donlic, Malavika Puri, Amanda Hargrove
Department of Chemistry, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 27708
Alyson Hoffman, Ph.D. Candidate (Nicchitta Lab)
RNA Conference, Prague, Czech Republic  May 28-June 8, 2017
Title: Selective recruitment of ER-Localized transcripts to stress granules during the unfolded protein response
Jagganathan S1,†, Hoffman AM2, and Nicchitta CV1,2*
Departments of Cell Biology1 and Biochemistry2, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710 USA
†Current address: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, 98109

Al Harding, Ph.D. Candidate (Heaton Lab)
Keystone Conference – Symposia meeting on Viral Immunity: Mechanisms and Consequences, Santa Fe, New Mexico February 19 – 23, 2017
Title: Genetically engineered bivalent influenza viruses as vaccines
Alfred Harding, Brook Heaton, Rebekah Dumm, and Nicholas Heaton.
Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 27708

Ruwan Gunaratne, Ph.D. Candidate (Sullenger Lab)
Bordeaux RNA Club and Aptamer Meeting, Bordeaux, France June 23-25, 2016
Title: RNA Aptamer against FXa Synergizes with FXa Catalytic Site Inhibitors to
Effectively and Reversibly Anticoagulate Blood in an Ex Vivo Oxygenator Circuit
Ruwan Gunaratne1, James Frederiksen1, Michelle D. Ho2, Nabil K. Thalji2, Rodney M. Camire2, Bruce A. Sullenger1
1Department of Surgery, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, USA; 2Department of Pediatrics, Childrens Hospital of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

Nandan Gokhale, Ph.D. Candidate (Horner Lab)
2016 American Society for Virology Conference, Blacksburg, VA June 18-22, 2016
Title: The role of the RNA-Binding YTHDF Proteins in Hepatitis C Virus Infection
Nandan S. Gokhale1, Allison Roder1, Michael McFadden1, Alfred Harding1, E. Matthew Kennedy1, Bryan R. Cullen1, Yogesh Saletore3, Christopher E. Mason3, and Stacy M. Horner1,2.
1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology 2Department of Medicine
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 3Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY

New bioanalyzer supports RNA research at Duke: The Center for RNA Biology and the Department of Biochemistry have purchased a Bioanalyzer for use by members of the Biochemistry department and RNA Center. The bioanalyzer is located in the first floor of the Nanaline Duke Building in room 0155 in the Meyer lab. The 2100 Bioanalyzer is an automated electrophoresis system that allows for sizing, quantitation, and purity assessment of RNA. It is the equivalent of simultaneously running a PAGE gel and nanodrop, but at a fraction of the cost and time. It provides a way to accurately quantify RNA samples using only picograms amounts of RNA. The results are also incredibly reproducible, so you also save time associated with re-running gels. If you are interested in using this Bioanalyzer, please contact Mathieu Flamand (mathieu.flamand@duke.edu) in Dr. Kate Meyer’s laboratory.
Center for RNA Biology Research in Progress Talks: We had an exciting series of 2017-2018 research talks.  As you many of you know, these talks feature two speakers (students or postdoctoral fellows), one from UNC and one from Duke. Refreshments and dinner are provided between 5:00-5:30 followed by the two ~30 mins talks (5:30-6:30). The talks are informal with lots of discussion. The venue alternates between UNC (G010 Genome Science Bldg) and Duke (147 Nanaline Duke Bldg). The talks are held on the third Wednesday of each month – a finalized schedule will be sent in a separate email. These talks provide a great opportunity to learn about RNA, exchange ideas, meet other scientists in the triangle interested in RNA, and also give students and postdoctoral fellows valuable training.

Pilot RNA-Specific Small Molecule Screens: We are pleased to announce that the Duke Center for RNA Biology, Duke Functional Genomics Shared Resource, and School of Medicine will be issuing a call in the fall of 2018 for research proposals interested in high throughput screening regulatory RNAs against small molecules. The funds will support screens that employ RNA-optimized small molecule libraries designed by Dr. Amanda Hargrove at the Department of Chemistry, Duke University. This first-in-kind library will be unique to Duke and available for screening for Duke researchers through the Duke Functional Genomics Shared Resource. There will also be support for orthogonal in silico screens when a structure for the RNA target is available. We anticipate supporting four pilot studies. Given the strength and diversity of the Duke RNA community, these resources have the potential to make Duke the world leader in RNA-targeted chemical probe and drug discovery.
With best wishes,

Hashim and Stacy