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Keck award enables Carnegie Mellon and Stanford to dramatically expand crowdsourced RNA design
Date:3/15/2012

nd evaluated to see if they work in real life.

The Keck Foundation support will help the researchers leverage advances in biotechnology that, Das said, "are leading to a radical re-imagining of the game." Until now, only about 32 of the designs could be evaluated in the lab each month. But Keck Foundation support, as well as rapid advances in the technology for synthesizing molecules, should now make it possible to synthesize thousands each month. Players can still respond to weekly challenges, but the expanded capability to synthesize molecules also will enable them to pursue and test their own design hypotheses, much as an academic researcher might.

"You couldn't have done this a year ago," Das said. "It's an exciting time."

Players have responded enthusiastically to the new puzzles implemented this month that challenge them to design shape-shifting RNAs that sense other molecules. These designs could lead to RNA molecules that have a number of applications as sensors for RNAs such as those expressed by viruses or cancer cells, as logic gates in RNA-based computer circuits, and as switches for rapidly turning genes on and off as scientists explore functions in model cells.

Das said the project also is creating a pipeline that will help non-expert players turn their own discoveries into published research papers, rewarding them with recognition of their work.

As part of the Keck initiative, EteRNA is creating an advisory board of noted scientists, including Paul Berg, a Stanford biochemist and Nobel laureate in chemistry; Dr. Patrick O. Brown, also a Stanford biochemist; and David Baker, a biochemist at the University of Washington, to provide guidance as EteRNA explores this new way of conducting scientific research.


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Contact: Byron Spice
bspice@cs.cmu.edu
412-268-9068
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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