News Release

Leading RNA scientists to speak at UF Scripps symposium, ‘RNA: From Biology to Drug Discovery’

Meeting Announcement

UF Health

RNA: From Biology to Drug Discovery

image: Leading RNA scientists to speak at UF Scripps symposium, ‘RNA: From Biology to Drug Discovery’ in Jupiter, Florida Jan. 17-18, 2023. view more 

Credit: UF Scripps Biomedical Research

WHAT: Experts in RNA biology and drug design will gather at UF Scripps Biomedical Research for a two-day symposium on the state of the science that is changing preventive medicine and opening once-undruggable diseases to innovation. 

Titled “RNA: From Biology to Drug Discovery,” the free conference is geared toward students and scientists working or considering careers in the fields of RNA research and drug discovery. Attendees will hear from scientific luminaries who have revealed facets of the biology and structure of RNA, and meet some of the researchers who have engineered compounds that target, bind, edit and degrade disease-associated RNAs. A poster session will feature the work of students and postdoctoral researchers who are producing new, emerging research in the field. Special programming geared to postdoctoral researchers' career development in RNA research is planned as well.

Until recently, most researchers deemed RNA to be undruggable as a disease target. No more. The recent success of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 have shown that understanding and harnessing the activities of RNA can lead to both preventive and curative therapeutics.

Registration is required. Please visit

WHEN: Jan. 17-18, 2023

WHERE: UF Scripps Biomedical Research, 120 Scripps Way, Building B; Jupiter, Florida 33445

WHO: Speakers at “RNA: From Biology to Drug Discovery” include experts in computation and biophysics, protein assembly and treatment of diseases.

The event, sponsored by UF Health, the University of Florida’s academic health center, is hosted by three scientists from UF Scripps and one from UF in Gainesville, all known for their advances in RNA biology and drug discovery:

  • Matthew Disney, Ph.D., chair of the UF Scripps department of Chemistry and a pioneer in the field of RNA therapeutics. Disney proved that many existing drugs act on RNA to achieve their therapeutic effects. He has created RNA-editing tools that harness cells’ own degradation systems to address genetic and viral diseases, developed systems for identifying druggable structures on RNA, and assembled a database of thousands of drug-like molecules likely to bind RNA. These advances led him to found two companies focused on developing RNA therapeutics for diseases such as ALS/frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s, myotonic dystrophy and cancer.
  • Maurice Swanson, Ph.D., a professor and associate program director of the UF department of molecular genetics and microbiology. Swanson’s group discovered how an RNA-based mechanism in cells with specific mutations can lead to myotonic dystrophy by trapping needed proteins in the cell nucleus and preventing them from helping build factors needed for healthy muscle.
  • Katrin Karbstein, Ph.D., professor of integrative structural and computational biology at UF Scripps Biomedical Research and a faculty scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or HHMI. She studies how defects in the assembly of cell organelles that build proteins, called ribosomes, can lead to disease. Ribosomes are both made of RNA and processors of information carried by RNA. Karbstein has illuminated how reduced ribosome concentrations as well as improperly built ribosomes can predispose cells to become malignant.
  • James M. Burke, Ph.D., an assistant professor of molecular medicine at UF Scripps. He explores how the innate immune system protects cells from viral invasion. Working with Roy Parker, Ph.D., HHMI investigator and professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, he helped detail how cells modulate messenger RNA trafficking within the cell in response to infection, and helped reveal how viral infection can lead cells to another potential defense, production of stress granules that can alter RNA composition.  


In addition to the hosts, the confirmed speakers of “RNA: From Biology to Drug Discovery” include: 


Susan Ackerman, Ph.D.

HHMI Investigator, Stephen W. Kuffler Chair in Biology

Department of Neurobiology

UC San Diego


Howard Chang, M.D., Ph.D.

Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research

Professor of Genetics Dermatology

Stanford University


Rachel Green, Ph.D.

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics


Dan Herschlag, Ph.D.

Professor of Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering

Stanford University


Jeannie Lee, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology

Massachusetts General Hospital and The Blavatnik Institute

Harvard Medical School


Roy Parker, Ph.D.

Professor, Cech-Leinwand Endowed Chair of Biochemistry

University of Colorado Boulder


Anna Marie Pyle, Ph.D.

Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Chemistry

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Yale School of Medicine


CONTACT:   For media questions, contact Stacey DeLoye at or 561-307-3111. For event questions, contact


About UF Scripps Biomedical Research

The scientists of UF Scripps Biomedical Research work at the interface of chemistry and biology, blending leading-edge expertise and resources to illuminate the molecular basis of health and disease. Founded by Scripps Research, one of the world’s most innovative nonprofit biomedical research organizations, the Florida institute joined the University of Florida, one of the nation’s top 5 public universities, in 2022. Together, UF Health and UF Scripps work to advance science, science education and medicine for the benefit of humanity. Learn more at



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