MIT’s Koch Institute Hosts 13th Annual Symposium, “RNA Biology, Cancer and Therapeutic Implications”

One-day event will examine the latest breakthroughs in RNA biology and RNA medicines to highlight RNA renaissance

Article ID: 619033

Released: 9-Jun-2014 5:00 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

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Newswise — CAMBRIDGE, MA, June 9, 2014 – On Friday, June 13, the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT (KI) will host its 13th annual KI Summer Symposium, “RNA Biology, Cancer and Therapeutic Implications.” This one-day symposium at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium will focus on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying RNA-based gene regulation in cancer. Nearly 1,000 cancer researchers, RNA biologists, and clinical oncologists will convene to hear updates on the latest breakthroughs in the creation of RNA-based gene-editing tools and the development and intracellular delivery of RNA-cancer medicines.

RNA therapeutics turn genes on and off, which provides the opportunity to treat a host of diseases caused by malfunctioning genes. While the process was initially challenging, promising early clinical results sparked a renaissance of the field and renewed optimism about the impact of RNA therapies.

Featured Symposium presenters include:

Phillip Sharp, PhD, Institute Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. Professor Sharp’s research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing. His landmark work in 1977 provided the first indications of “discontinuous genes” in mammalian cells and earned him the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His research interest is RNA Biology.

David Bartel, PhD, Member, Whitehead Institute; Professor of Biology, MIT; a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Over the past 15 years, Professor Bartel’s laboratory has contributed to the understanding of the genomics, biogenesis, and regulatory targets of microRNAs (miRNAs) and other regulatory RNAs, as well as the molecular and biological consequences of their actions.

Joshua Mendell, MD, PhD, Professor of Molecular Biology, UT Southwestern Medical Center. The Mendell laboratory is a leader in elucidating functions of the miRNA pathway relative to cancer. Professor Mendell’s research group provided one of the first demonstrations that miRNAs are functional components of critical oncogenic and tumor suppressor pathways and that miRNAs represent anti-cancer therapeutic agents when delivered systemically.

Sangeeta Bhatia, MD, PhD, Professor of Health Sciences and Technology & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT; a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Professor Bhatia has been recognized as one of the “the nation’s most promising young professors in science and engineering” and was named one of the “10 Most Influential Women in Biotech” by the Boston Globe. Her laboratory has developed tumor-penetrating nanocomplexes that shut off cancer genes. These are comprised of small interfering RNA (siRNA) in complex with a peptide designed to enable the specific delivery of siRNA into the tumors

Daniel Anderson, PhD, Samuel A. Goldblith Professor of Applied Biology; Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. Professor Anderson has developed innovative systems for intracellular delivery of RNA. Through his labs efforts the efficiency of nano-particle delivery of siRNAs in vivo has increased by over two orders of magnitude. John Maraganore, PhD, CEO and Director, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Maraganore joined Alnylam in 2002, bringing over 25 years of experience in Research and Development, and business roles with biotechnology companies. Alnylam has been a leading RNAi therapeutics company, and by the end of 2015, plans to have six to seven programs in clinical development, at least two programs in Phase 3 trials, and five to six programs with human proof-of-concept.

Stan Crooke, MD, PhD, Founder, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. During his tenure at Isis, Dr. Crooke has led the scientific development of a new platform for drug discovery, antisense technology, and engineered the creation of one of the largest and more advanced development pipelines in the biotechnology industry.

Jennifer Doudna, PhD, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Professor Doudna has deciphered the molecular structure of RNA enzymes and other functional RNAs, and co-discovered the function of the Cas9 system, whose ability to cut double-stranded DNA can be programmed by changing the guide RNA sequence. This system is a molecular tool for precision genome engineering, a discovery that has triggered a revolution in the fields of molecular genetics and genomics.

Jeannie Lee, MD, PhD, Professor of Genetics (and Pathology), Massachusetts General Hospital; a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Professor Lee investigates epigenetic regulation by long noncoding RNAs (lncRNA), particularly the role of the long noncoding RNA, XIST, in silencing the X chromosome in females. She is also the scientific founder of RaNA Therapeutics, a company that harnesses the potential of long noncoding RNAs to treat disease.

Laurie Boyer, PhD, Irwin and Helen Sizer Career Development Associate Professor of Biology, MIT; Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. Professor Boyer’s laboratory investigates the role of noncoding RNA as well as noncoding DNA elements in specifing transcriptional programs during cell fate transitions.

Scott Lowe, PhD, Associate Director for Basic Cancer Research, Cancer Biology and Genetics Program; Chair, Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Professor Lowe's research has made important contributions to our understanding of the p53 tumor suppressor network, as well as the processes of multi-step carcinogenesis, cellular senescence, and tumor-cell drug resistance. His laboratory applies RNA interference and cancer genomics in a coordinated effort to identify genes that will be useful therapeutic targets.

Members of the press are also invited to join Symposium chairs, Professors Phillip Sharp and Sangeeta Bhatia, Symposium speakers, and Koch Institute Director Tyler Jacks for lunch at Twenty Chimneys, Stratton Student Center, W20-306. All parties will be available for questions.

WHENSymposium: Friday, June 13, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm Lunch: Friday, June 13, 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm

WHERESymposiumKresge Auditorium (Building W16) 48 Massachusetts AvenueCambridge, MA 02139

Speakers’ LunchStratton Student Center (Building W20)84 Massachusetts Avenue, room 306 Cambridge, MA 02139

RSVPPlease respond by Wednesday, June 11 to Anne Deconinck (617-3243533; to attend.


About the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center, is a state-of-the-art cancer research facility as well as the hub of cancer research on the MIT campus. Completed in 2010, the Koch Institute building allows for the physical co-localization of faculty members from the Department of Biology (formerly in the MIT Center for Cancer Research) with faculty members drawn from a variety of departments in the MIT School of Engineering. The Koch Institute faculty also includes many members located in other research buildings at MIT, including the Whitehead and Broad Institutes.

The Koch Institute brings together biologists and chemists along with biological, chemical, mechanical, and materials science engineers, computer scientists, clinicians, and others, to bring fresh perspectives and an interdisciplinary approach to advancing the fight against cancer. This multi-faceted group of investigators is at the core of the Koch Institute’s mission to develop new insights into cancer, as well as new tools and technologies to better treat, diagnose, and prevent the disease. For further information about MIT’s Koch Institute, please visit


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