RNA Salons during the pandemic

Since 2016, more than 50 RNA Salons had formed vibrant communities around the world to connect in regular events exchanging their interests in RNA research. Like the rest of our lives, also the RNA Salon events must adapt to the new conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remarkably, many RNA Salon organizers have displayed superb resilience and creativity in developing new models to engage the RNA communities both locally and beyond. In May 2020, already 25% of all RNA Salons had offered virtual events and another 50% were planning to do so in the near future. The RNA Society applauds all RNA Salon organizers for their outstanding leadership during these times!

Here, we want to share three examples of new RNA Salon activities including a new feature:

  1. RNA Collaborative Seminar Series:
    Under the leadership of the RNA Salon at UMichigan, a large initiative has formed to offer RNA seminars beyond institutional boundaries.
  2. RNA in the Age of COVID-19 Competition
    As an alternative form of engaging RNA trainees, the RNA Institute at the University at Albany offered an Art and Essay Competition. The RNA Society congratulates the winners of the Art Competition, Kahini Sarkar (1st place) and Deniece Brown (2nd place), as well as the winners of the Essay Competition, Xiaolong Dong (1st place), Pheonah Badu and Daniel Woods (both 2nd place).
  3. RNA Essay Contest: The role of RNA research in community health
    The RNA Salon at the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology has also offered an RNA Essay Contest for graduate students and postdocs, co-sponsored by their internal RNA Structure & Function Cluster. The RNA Society extends its congratulations to the Gold Prize Winner, Sydney Simpson, an Immunology, Microbiology and Virology graduate student in Steve Dewhurst’s lab in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, for her essay on  “Nucleoside Analog Inhibitors: Timeless & Timely Beacons of Hope” and to the Silver Prize Winner, Omar Hedaya, a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate student in Peng Yao’s lab in the Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry & Biophysics, for his essay onKnow the Fundamentals when Seeking the Future”.  The RNA Society also would like to recognize Honorable Mentions for the following graduate students: Sai Shashank Chavali (Biophysics, Structural & Computational Biology; Wedekind Lab), Lily Cisco (Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology; Lueck Lab), Gabrielle Kosoy (Biophysics, Structural and Computational Biology; Miller Lab), Ashwin Kumar (Immunology, Microbiology and Virology; Topham Lab), and Li Xie (Genetics, Development and Stem Cells; Pröschel Lab).
  4. A history of adaptation: Feature of the Club Argentino del ARN (see below)
    Existing since almost 20 years, the Club Argentino del ARN shares its rich history in the newest RNA Salon feature including a report how they adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We thank these and all other RNA Salons for keeping the international RNA Society strong, vibrant and well-connected during these times!

Ute Kothe
RNA Salon Program Organizer

Featured RNA Salon

Club Argentino del ARN- A brief history

Our current Argentinean RNA Club (Club Argentino del ARN- “CAA”) was born long time ago, as an embryonic form that little by little has mutated into its actual conformation. Around 2002, a bunch of laboratories working in topics related to the RNA field in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area started to gather periodically to share and exchange ideas, information and progress of their own projects. Few years later, and mostly motorized by young investigators that were setting up their independent labs, we proudly launched the Buenos Aires RNA Club (“Club de RNA de Buenos Aires”), which congregated RNA labs from FIL, IFIBYNE, INGEBI, IIB-UNSAM and other research institutions from Buenos Aires and surroundings.

Since that time, we have met either monthly or seasonally and in most sessions, PhD students and post-docs have been encouraged to present their ongoing work. From our perspective, presentations by students and young investigators as well as a horizontal exchange of ideas were key to the success of our gatherings, and this philosophy keeps being the essence of our RNA Club nowadays. In addition, by time to time we have the fortune to hear speakers from abroad. The “elders” will remember talks by Lynne Maquat, Joan Steitz, Josh Dubnau, Craig Smibert, James Dalberg, which fully packed the auditorium. In more recent years, Javier Caceres, Tito Baralle, Sebastian Kadener, Luisa Cochella, Martin Crespi and many others were invited to give seminars in our Club while visiting Buenos Aires for some other reason.

As it happens with many life forms, the club entered a sort of diapause (fortunately we escaped apoptosis!) with reduced activity for a while. However, metamorphosis inexorably progressed, and luckily the Buenos Aires RNA Club emerged renovated in 2016, to gather not only the founder members but also to include labs from other Argentinean cities including Rosario (IBR), Santa Fé (IAL), La Plata (IBBM-UNLP), among others. Of course, the support by the RNA Society, which started in 2016 has been crucial to keep our still expanding club at work.  

Our network includes laboratories focused in a great variety of subjects, from pre-mRNA processing (splicing and poly-adenylation) to translation and mRNA stability, RNA virus, circRNAs, non-coding RNAs (both short and long), RNA-membraneless organelles and so on. Adding to this wide assortment of molecular processes and regulatory mechanisms, an eclectic repertoire of model organisms ranging from bacteria and lower eukaryotes to plants, animals, and even viruses are present, combining imaging and molecular biology approaches. All these ingredients melt in a spicy pot that greatly renovate and inspire our research projects, giving rise also to several fruitful collaborations.

The Buenos Aires RNA Club not only kept the above mentioned activities but also, on 2018, a local workshop with the participation of near 200 RNA scientists from Argentina and Uruguay took place (https://biologiadelarn2018.wixsite.com/arn2018). This reinforced our links with the Uruguayan RNA community, and close contacts between the two neighbor countries were built. With all these strengths and new members, the club extended nationwide and the “Club Argentino del ARN” was officially founded on 2019.

The 2020 pandemic has imposed a deep change in our daily activities and even more on the logistic of all scientific meetings. Based on this, and to maintain our exchange and motivation even during these difficult times, we have initiated an “RNA home delivery” program based on webinars. The advantage of this is that it gives us the opportunity to easily include invited speakers from abroad, and this has renovated the enthusiasm on the local RNA community. This 2020 special program of the Argentinean Club is being shared with the Uruguayan Club, potentiating our skills. It is being a quite different year in an all of a sudden different world, but nevertheless with great expectations. We hope this new format will keep nurturing our work on RNA Cellular and Molecular Biology as intensely as in previous years. So far, our first webinar gathered 98 attendees, mostly from Argentina and Uruguay, as well as from other countries including France, Spain, USA and Canada.And of course, we will keep looking forward to get together again in a face-to-face format, with students and colleagues, not only at national meetings but also at international ones.

Anabella Srebrow and Graciela Lidia Boccaccio


Other Featured RNA Salons

The Hong Kong RNA Club - A new hub for RNA aficionados
Australia's first RNA Salon - meRNA at Monash University
Hungarian RNA Salons
Arizona RNA Salon Activities 2017
The Dutch RNA Network