Robert T. Batey, Ph.D.

Dr. Batey is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he has been since 2001. He received his Ph.D. degree in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997 with Professor Jamie Williamson and was a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow at Yale University with Professor Jennifer Doudna between 1997 and 2001. The Batey laboratory seeks to understand how structured RNA elements directs gene expression. In 2004, his research team was the first to reveal the structural basis for small molecule binding by a naturally-occurring regulatory element called a riboswitch. These sequences, frequently found in bacterial mRNAs, directly bind a small molecule effector to an “aptamer” that directs a structural switch that in turn informs the expression machinery. Since these first insights, the Batey laboratory has worked extensively on the structural and mechanism of spectrum of riboswitches that bind diverse small molecules including guanine, S-adenosylmethionine, lysine, tetrahydrofolate, vitamin B12, and the purine biosynthetic intermediate ZMP. Using a combination of structural, biochemical and cell-based approaches, the Batey laboratory has provided many of the key insights into how small molecule binding by RNA can be harnessed to regulate mRNA expression.

Ronald R. Breaker, Ph.D.

Dr. Breaker is the Chair and Henry Ford II Professor of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, is jointly appointed as a professor in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and is an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His graduate studies with Dr. Peter Gilham at Purdue University focused on the synthesis of RNA and the catalytic properties of nucleic acids. As a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Gerald Joyce at The Scripps Research Institute, Dr. Breaker pioneered a variety of in vitro evolution strategies to isolate novel RNA enzymes and was the first to discover catalytic DNAs or “deoxyribozymes” using this technology. Since establishing his laboratory at Yale in 1995, Dr. Breaker has continued to conduct research on the advanced functions of nucleic acids, including ribozyme reaction mechanisms, molecular switch technology, next-generation biosensors, and catalytic DNA engineering. In addition, his laboratory has established the first proofs that metabolites are directly bound by messenger RNA elements called riboswitches. Dr. Breaker’s research findings have been published in more than 220 scientific papers, book chapters, and patent applications, and his research has been funded by grants from the NIH, NSF, DARPA, the Hereditary Disease Foundation, and from several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Hellman Family Trust. In recognition of his research accomplishments at Yale, Dr. Breaker received the Arthur Greer Memorial Prize (1997), the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology (2005), the Molecular Biology Award from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2006), and the Merck Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Breaker has cofounded two biotechnology companies and is a scientific advisor for industry and for various government agencies. He serves on the editorial board for the scientific journals RNA Biology, RNA, and Cell Chemical Biology.

Dale L. Boger, Ph.D.

Dr. Boger received his B.Sc. in chemistry from the University of Kansas and Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University under the direction of E. J. Corey and supported by an NSF fellowship. He returned to the University of Kansas as a member of the faculty in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, moved to the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University, and joined the faculty in the newly created Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute (1991-present) as the Richard and Alice Cramer Professor of Chemistry. Since 2012, he has served as the Chairman for the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Boger is internationally recognized for his work in organic synthesis, heterocyclic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, natural products total synthesis and their biological characterization, synthetic methodology development, and chemical biology, and has made seminal contributions to discovering new therapeutic targets (FAAH, serine hydrolases), improving the glycopeptide antibiotics, and the understanding of DNA-drug interactions of naturally occurring antitumor-antibiotics.

M.G. Finn, Ph.D.

Dr. Finn is a Professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His expertise is in with expertise in polymer chemistry and serves as a member of the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE). His current interests include the use of virus particles as molecular and catalytic building blocks for vaccine and functional materials development, the discovery and development of click reactions for organic and materials synthesis, polyvalent interactions in drug targeting, medicinal chemistry and drug delivery, and the use of evolution for the discovery of chemical function. Dr. Finn obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1986 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working with Professor K.B. Sharpless, followed by an NIH postdoctoral fellowship with Professor J.P. Collman at Stanford University. He joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1988, where his group studied and developed a variety of transition metal-mediated processes. Dr. Finn moved to the Department of Chemistry and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute in 1998, and then to Georgia Tech in 2013. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, was the first recipient of the annual Scripps Outstanding Mentor Award, and is Editor-in-Chief of the journal ACS Combinatorial Science.

David H. Mathews, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Mathews is a Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he oversees The Mathews Lab, which studies RNA with computational methods. The Mathews Lab is developing new methods to improve RNA secondary structure prediction, with a focus on using data from homologous sequence comparison and probing experiments, and improved methods to model the all-atom structure and dynamics of RNA. Dr. Mathews received his undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Rochester. He also completed medical and graduate school at the University of Rochester, where he received his Ph.D. in Chemistry. Dr. Mathews’ thesis work was with Doug Turner on determining the set of free energy change nearest neighbor parameters for RNA folding, developing methods to constrain folding based on wet lab experiments, and predicting a secondary structure common to two sequences. Dr. Mathews completed a post-doc with David Case at the Scripps Research Institute, San Diego, CA, to work on all-atom modeling of RNA. Dr. Mathews has received an Alfred P. Sloan foundation fellowship and has been highlighted by Genome Technology as one of “Tomorrow’s PIs”.

Michael Zuker, Ph.D.

Dr. Zuker is a Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Dr. Zuker works on the development and implementation of algorithms to predict nucleic acid folding and hybridization by free energy minimization using empirically derived thermodynamic parameters. Modeling and algorithm development have been closely coupled with the derivation of nearest neighbor and related energy rules. His current work is focused on the computation of partition functions for systems containing two molecules in solution that can fold as well as hybridize with each other. A related project is the development of an algorithm named FASTH that searches RNA or DNA sequence databases for optimal hybridization sites for nucleic acid query sequences. Dr. Zuker received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.