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WATCH: Center for RNA Therapeutics Sets New Standard in RNA Therapy Development

March 22, 2024 - Eden McCleskey

Houston Methodist Hospital's Center for RNA Therapeutics is pioneering a groundbreaking approach to develop and commercialize RNA-based therapies.

The center's unique capability to produce clinical-grade RNA in its clean rooms sets it apart from other academic institutions, said Daniel Kiss, Ph.D., a scientist at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. He emphasized the capability is a significant advantage in the journey toward clinical trials and eventual commercialization of RNA therapies.

Dr. John Cooke, chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the Research Institute and founding director of the Center for RNA Therapeutics, noted that the center serves as a comprehensive resource for scientists worldwide. With its RNA core, the center offers services ranging from design and synthesis to purification and validation of RNA constructs, crucial steps in advancing research towards clinical application.

"Our ultimate goal is to foster a community where ideas about RNA can be shared and translated into practical solutions to improve health care outcomes," summarized Dr. Cooke.

Dr. Kiss and his team focus on developing next-generation RNA therapies, with a particular emphasis on circular RNA molecules. These circular RNAs, they believe, hold promise for vaccines and treatments for diseases such as tuberculosis, Mpox, and even COVID-19. By leveraging the extended lifespan of circular RNA, their approach aims to mimic natural infections more closely, potentially enhancing the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions.

Ewan McRae, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for RNA Therapeutics, specializes in RNA structural biology. His lab's efforts center on designing RNA molecules that can selectively target cancer cells, thereby improving the specificity and efficacy of RNA therapeutics. By combining cutting-edge prediction software with advanced characterization techniques like cryogenic electron microscopy, Dr. McRae's team aims to unlock the full therapeutic potential of RNA-based treatments.

Kristopher Brannan, Ph.D., another assistant professor within the center, investigates RNA-protein interactions in diseases like cancer and neurological disorders. His research focuses on understanding how these interactions drive disease progression at the molecular level, with a particular emphasis on single-cell resolution. Dr. Brannan's lab also collaborates on the design and delivery of RNA drugs, contributing to the development of potential therapies for various conditions.

Overall, the Center for RNA Therapeutics represents a hub of innovation and collaboration aimed at translating cutting-edge RNA research into tangible benefits for patients.

With its multidisciplinary approach and state-of-the-art facilities, the center is poised to lead the way in this novel field.

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