Prestigious RNA research conference coming to U of L

Leading investigators in the emerging field of Ribonucleic acid (RNA) research – including a Gairdner Foundation International Award recipient – are gathering at the University of Lethbridge, June 18-21, 2014, for one of Canada’s most prestigious conferences.

Gairdner Award winner, Dr. Joan Steitz, will give the conference's keynote address on Wednesday, June 18.

RiboWest 2014, now in its 10th year, is attracting experts in one of the fastest growing fields in the life sciences. With implications for many diseases, our understanding of evolution, as well as biotechnological applications, RNA research has enormous economic potential.

The U of L’s Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI) is hosting the conference, which will take place at the University’s Lethbridge campus and includes sessions in Waterton.

“The RNA research field has moved dramatically over the past decade,” says Dr. Ute Wieden-Kothe, a conference organizer and member of ARRTI. “RNA research touches so many vital areas related to quality of life including health, agriculture and environment. Every two or three years an RNA researcher is winning a Nobel prize.”

RNA is a key molecule that impacts health (including human health) and is vital for living beings. RNA takes the genetic information found within DNA and kick-starts essential functions (like creating proteins) at the cellular level.

The conference is expected to attract 100 to 150 researchers and students – including 40 principal researchers.

One of the highlights of the conference will be a keynote presentation by Gairdner award winner Dr. Joan Steitz (Wednesday, June 18, 3:10 p.m. in PE275) – a Yale researcher who is a pioneer in the RNA field. Dr. Steitz’s presentation is open to the public.

While the RNA research field is making a global impact, the U of L is being recognized as a centre of excellence in Western Canada and beyond. ARRTI, established in 2012 to facilitate RNA research and training excellence at the U of L, has reflected the institution’s maturation in the field. Additionally, the U of L was recently awarded the Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures Bioengineering Chair (ARRTI Director Dr. H.J. Wieden) and the University is currently using a Campus Alberta Innovation Program Chair to recruit additional expertise to the ARRTI membership. U of L students, through the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition, have excelled on the world stage with RNA projects.

Dr. Stephen Rader organized the first RiboWest Conference in 2005 at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, B.C. Since 2008, the annual conference alternates between Prince George and Lethbridge.

For more information, visit the RiboWest 2014 website.