Newswise — PHILADELPHIA—(April 4, 2016)—The Wistar Institute, an international biomedical research leader in cancer, immunology and infectious diseases, announces the appointment of Kavitha Sarma, Ph.D., as assistant professor in Wistar’s Gene Expression and Regulation Program.

Biomedical cancer research is the culmination of understanding all processes related to disease and is transformed by scientists across different backgrounds, perspectives and expertise. Sarma’s research focuses on how long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) regulate gene expression. Non-coding RNAs are RNA molecules that are copied from DNA but cannot make proteins. An emerging field of research, Sarma’s work reveals the impact of lncRNAs as epigenetic regulators of gene expression and as factors that affect pathways leading to oncogenesis. Until recently, not much was known about lncRNAs and their effect on gene activity. Sarma’s experimental work brings a new skillset that will augment the work of many other Wistar scientists.

“Kavitha is a gifted molecular biologist whose research complements the innovative cancer research taking place at Wistar,” said Dario Altieri, M.D., President and CEO of The Wistar Institute, Director of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center, and the Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. “Her work is at the forefront of understanding the role of lncRNAs in gene expression and cancer. In the last decade we’ve just begun to understand the significance and function of lncRNAs and their tremendous importance to cancer at the molecular level.”

“I’m so excited to be part of a world-renowned research institute like Wistar,” said Sarma. “I have no doubt the passionate approach the faculty here take to science will lead to many fruitful research opportunities and productive collaborations. My research is shedding light on fundamental aspects of how ncRNAs regulate genes and how their malfunction alters cellular functions and effects epigenomic changes that lead to cancer.”

From 2010 to 2012, Sarma was the recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health. She joins Wistar from the Department of Molecular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Jeannie T. Lee, Ph.D. Prior to that, she was a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry at Rutgers University in the lab of Danny Reinberg, Ph.D., (currently at New York University School of Medicine).

Sarma graduated with a B.Sc. followed by a M.Sc. in molecular biology from the Department of Zoology at the University of Pune and a Ph.D. from Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute since 1972. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible.