Edinburgh Infectious Diseases
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Edinburgh researchers to participate in EMBL Twinning Project on RNA biology

David Tollervey, from the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology and Sara Macias from the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research will take part in a twinning project with the Central European Institute of Technology and other partners, to share research expertise on RNA biology.

EMBL twinnign projects map
INTEG-RNA is one of three new twinning projects announced by EMBL that will link researchers across Europe.

 The INTEG-RNA project aims to develop and share expertise in ribonucleic acid (RNA) biology and could enhance understanding of many diseases.

The European Commission has granted funding for Twinning projects that enable the creation of new research networks and collaborations across Europe. Each will be awarded €1 million and run for three years.

David Tollervey

David Tollervey, Principal Research Fellow, Professor of RNA Biology and Director of the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology will coordinate the contribution by researchers from the University of Edinburgh to the INTEG-RNA project.

The technology and tools that David’s research laboratory has developed have enormous potential for enhancing understanding of disease states.

His research could aid understanding of infections with viruses and Escherichia coli bacteria. 

In many viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 which is responsible for the current coronavirus pandemic, RNA, rather than DNA, carries the viral genetic information. 

This is an excellent opportunity to enhance European collaboration at a time when cooperation has never been more important, and on a topic that has never been of more relevance, as we combat the SARS-CoV-2 RNA virus.

Professor David TollerveyDirector of the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences

Sara Macias

The University of Edinburgh team also includes Sara Macias, a Wellcome Trust funded Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, and a member of Edinburgh Infectisou DIseases.

She is an expert in RNA biology and her team is interested in understanding how cells defend themselves from RNA viruses.

Sara will offer her infrastructure and expertise for collaborative work with scientists interested in expanding their work in the context of viral infections.

Prof David Tollervey and Dr Sara Macias
Prof David Tollervey and Dr Sara Macias from the School of Biological Sciences.

What is RNA?

RNA is a molecule, similar to DNA, that is essential for gene expression. The coding information in a gene is copied into RNA in a process called transcription. 

Initially considered a “messenger” that only carries the instructions to make proteins - the workhorses of the cell - in recent years it has proved to be more versatile, participating in many processes.

We now know that RNA can also speed up chemical reactions and in some viruses RNA, rather than DNA, carries the viral genetic material, allowing it to reproduce after invading its host.

Defects in RNA functions are also involved in many human diseases, including heart disease, cancers and muscular dystrophies. 

David is an expert in ribosome synthesis and RNA processing — processes required for the manufacture of proteins within cells.

The processing of RNA and the assembly of RNA-protein complexes (RNPs) are among the most important pathways in all forms of life.

INTEG-RNA Project: Integrating multidisciplinary RNA research 

The INTEG-RNA project aims to establish a cluster of excellence in RNA research at the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.

Research in RNA biology is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, involving bioinformaticians, structural biologists, imaging specialists, and biophysicists. 

To strengthen the RNA research community, CEITEC researchers will collaborate with experts at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) Mainz, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and the groups at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences.

Enabling development

Twinning is part of the European Commission’s ‘Horizon 2020’ widening programme.

It aims to foster knowledge transfer from leading European universities and research institutes to their partner institutions. 

At least two advanced partners, like Edinburgh University, team up with an institute in these countries to share their expertise through workshops, staff exchanges, or summer schools.

Related Links

Professor David Tollervey

Dr Sara Macias

EMBL Press Release