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Pioneers in small RNA research to present at UD symposium, April 16

Three of the world's pioneers in small RNA research--Victor Ambros, Gary Ruvkun and David Baulcombe--will lecture on their recent discoveries at a special half-day symposium at the University of Delaware from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 16, in the Gore Recital Hall of the Roselle Center for the Arts.

The event will be held in their honor, as the 2008 winners of the Franklin Institute's Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science.

UD's symposium is part of a weeklong series of activities aimed at familiarizing students and the community with the accomplishments of the Franklin Institute laureates. The three will formally receive their awards, which are among science's oldest and most prestigious honors, at a ceremony at the Philadelphia-based institute on April 17.

The discovery of small RNAs and their regulatory roles is widely considered the most exciting development in biology in recent times, said Pamela Green, the Crawford H. Greenewalt Endowed Chair in Plant Molecular Biology, who organized the event at UD. Green serves on the Franklin Institute's Committee on Science and the Arts.

The University of Delaware is honored to welcome three world-renowned scientists who are not only leaders in this field, but also pioneered it by discovering the very first examples of these interesting molecules that can turn off, or 'silence,' genes, she noted.

Through their research, Ambros, Ruvkun and Baulcombe discovered tiny strands of RNA on the order of 20 nucleotides long, which can turn off genes, preventing them from functioning. Their pioneering work revolutionized the scientific understanding of RNA, which previously had been perceived as having an essential, but less interesting role than DNA. Their findings helped spawn a vast, new world of research on small RNAs, which is advancing the development of new genetic tools for basic research and for improving agriculture and human health.

Victor Ambros joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in January. Previously, he had been on the faculty at Dartmouth Medical School and Harvard.

His areas of research include microRNA biology and animal developmental genetics, with emphasis on the temporal control of cell division and cell fate during development.

Ambros received his bachelor's and doctoral degrees in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the latter with Nobel laureate David Baltimore. His postdoctoral research was at MIT with Nobel laureate H. Robert Horvitz. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Ambros has received the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Newcomb Cleveland Prize, Brandeis University's Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award and the Genetics Society of America Medal for outstanding contributions in the past 15 years.

Gary Ruvkun is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. He earned a bachelor's degree in biophysics from the University of California at Berkeley and his doctorate from Harvard in biophysics. His postdoctoral research at Harvard was done with two Nobel Prize winners: Walter Gilbert at Harvard and H. Robert Horvitz at MIT.

In addition to microRNA and RNA interference, Ruvkun's research interests include neuroendocrine control of metabolism, aging and molting, as well as microbial diversity.

Ruvkun has written more than 100 research papers and has several issued and pending patents. He is the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Merit Award and the Rosenstiel Award from Brandeis University.

David Baulcombe earned a bachelor's degree in botany from Leeds University and a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. He was a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University and at the University of Georgia before establishing a research group at the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge. In 1988, he joined the Sainsbury Laboratory, where he did much of his world-renowned work. He is moving his laboratory to the University of Cambridge, where he is now professor of botany.

His research interests include the effect of RNA silencing on growth, development, evolution and defense in plants, and the development of virus-resistant crop plants.

Baulcombe is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a foreign associate member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. His awards include the Royal Medal, the Massry Prize, the M. W. Beijerinck Virology Prize, the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Science, the Ruth Allen Award and the Kumho Science International Award in Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

The symposium is free; however, seating is limited and registration is required. To register, visit the symposium Web site at []. Also, students and postdocs may apply via the Web site to join the speakers for lunch.

Minivans will be available to help shuttle registrants from the SEPTA station to the event if needed. Check the box on the registration page to request this service.

Sponsors include The Franklin Institute and the University of Delaware Office of the Provost and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Delaware Biotechnology Institute, IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Awards week symposia are underwritten by Cephalon.


Contact: Tracey Bryant
University of Delaware

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