I attended the “Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture” by Nobel Laureate, Craig C. Mello, MD, last night at Princeton University. The lecture, titled “RNAI: From Mystery to Mechanism, or How a Worm Won 3 Nobels,” was an exquisite overview of the importance of RNA interference (RNAI) in human health and human illness. Simply stated, RNAI is a system within living cells that takes part in controlling which genes are active and how active they are. Dr. Mello showed the audience this video to explain the importance of RNAI.
The complexity of Dr. Mello’s presentation notwithstanding, it was crystal clear to the lay audience of more than 100 people that we have not yet scratched the surface of utilizing RNAI technology for human health. In addition to a breezy history of how RNAI survived numerous pre- and post-Cambrian ice ages, its role as an anti-viral messenger, and excursions into discussions about its high degree of potency and specificity, Dr. Mello passionately encouraged the audience to use their vote to demand more federal funding to support RNAI research.
Clearly this message was not lost on the commercial life sciences community, as the event was sponsored by Novo Nordisk, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals. One local company, Rosetta Genomics is already utilizing microRNA technology for a myriad of commercially available cancer diagnostic tests.
Dr. Mello encouraged the life sciences industry to increase utilization of the fully-mapped human genome to identify pathways for the prediction, detection and treatment of human diseases.--John F. Kouten