It’s not all in the DNA: RNA biologists converge on Toronto

Toronto, April 7, 2008 – Riboswitches and biosensors are among the elements under exploration in Toronto this week as some of the world’s leading RNA biologists gather for a symposium on the powerful RNA-mediated mechanisms at work deep within the cell.

Where DNA is the double-stranded molecule commonly known as the “genetic blueprint” within the cell, RNA encompasses different classes of related molecular strands that scientists now know play critical roles in how genes are expressed in healthy and diseased states, including cancer.

Up to 200 scientists are expected to attend this week’s Regulatory RNA Symposium, hosted by University of Toronto’s Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomedical Research and MaRS. The two-day symposium, taking place April 10-11 at the MaRS Centre, brings together a stellar lineup of speakers from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Austria and France, and featuring keynote speakers from Yale and Harvard Universities.

“The invited speakers are among the leading researchers in one of the most important and rapidly progressing areas of biology,” said Dr. Ben Blencowe, symposium co-chair and Professor in the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research and Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. “The 2006 Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery of RNA interference, recognizing the role of both naturally occurring and synthetic RNA molecules in gene regulation and their important influence on cellular function and disease.”

RNA interference pathways also hold great promise in the body’s defence against microbial infections and other diseases, and drug companies are eyeing the use of small RNA molecules as highly specific therapeutics designed to knock down genes at will that are found to be active in disease processes.

The Regulatory RNA Symposium takes place April 10-11, 2008 at the MaRS Centre, 101 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. To view the agenda and full lineup of speakers, please follow the symposium link at:
Regulatory RNA Sympsium website

About Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomedical Research
Donnelly CCBR ( encourages new ways of approaching biological problems by stimulating unconventional interactions among disciplines. It consists of three research platforms: bioengineering and functional imaging; integrative biology and models of disease.

More Information
Linda Quattrin, MaRS, 416.673.8104,
Dr. Ben Blencowe, 416.978.3016, (symposium co-chair)
Dr. Howard Lipshitz, 416.978.6116, (symposium co-chair)

About MaRS
MaRS Discovery District ( is a large scale, mission driven innovation centre located in Toronto and networked across Ontario, focused on building Canada’s next generation of technology companies. MaRS works closely with entrepreneurs to grow and scale their ventures into global market leaders in life sciences and health care, information, communications and digital media technologies, cleantech, advanced materials and engineering, as well as innovative social purpose business.
For more information, contact:
Linda Quattrin
Director Communications
MaRS Discovery District