Three years after its initial opening, the University at Albany’s RNA Institute unveiled its newest research facility at the Life Sciences Research Building in a ceremony Tuesday.
The 15,000-square-foot expansion was created to continue the institute’s research on ribonucleic acid and its effects on the body. The lab will provide for access for 60 researchers, scientists, technicians and administrative employees to develop RNA technology, drug therapies and treatments for diseases.
RNA technology is a new and quickly growing field of study in the scientific community, with developments building on preliminary research. Robert Jones, president of UAlbany, said the institute came from humble beginnings stemming from ideas with great promise. Because of the support of progressive administrative staff at the school, he said, the RNA Institute is a leading entity in RNA research and development.
Researchers say RNA was once viewed as having little importance but has come back to popular scientific attention for its role in all organistic development.
Ronald Breaker, a Yale University scientist and a member of the RNA Institute Scientific Advisory Board, said RNA is the future of preventive medicine. He explained that the future of medicine lies less heavily in treatment and more in prevention of disease, and that RNA is the key to that change.
The institute is researching human diseases such as cancer, drug-resistance in bacterial and viral infections like MRSA and HIV, neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases, and depression to find ways to stop the misproduction of RNA proteins before they cause bodily harm. It is also working on innovative RNA technology and drug development.
The institute has attracted numerous scientists and businesses to the Capital Region, creating substantial private-public partnerships in the fields of innovative technologies, research and development, and computational equipment. The institute’s administrative team hopes the new lab will bring even more partnerships to the school’s research network following its previous successes of securing a network of affiliates from universities and companies worldwide.
The expansion was funded in part by the Empire State Development Corporation as part of Gov. Cuomo’s Tax-Free NY initiative to bring innovative jobs in future markets to upstate New York. Funding for the $9.4 million project was overwhelmingly approved, because previous investments in the institute were greatly outweighed by its revenue, according to Edelgard Wulfert, dean of UAlbany’s School of Arts and Sciences.
In the RNA Institute’s three years, scientists there have already applied for four patents, with one currently in negotiations. These successes, as well as continued expansions and continually updated equipment, are part of an initiative to bring upstate New York to the forefront of RNA developmental studies as a serious competitor in the global scientific market.