On August 2nd, the very first annual Toronto RNA Enthusiasts’ Day (TREnD) was held at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, Hospital for Sick Children. The Symposium was a student-led and trainee-focused event and was spear-headed by five graduate students in the Department of Molecular Genetics: Amanda Charlesworth, Ashrut Narula, Christopher Wedeles, Miranda Wang and Monica Wu. With guidance from their faculty advisors, Dr. Julie Claycomb and Dr. Olivia Rissland, the organizing group aimed to take advantage of the vibrant and diverse RNA biology community in the Greater Toronto Area and create a platform that will bring together researchers of every level for a day of RNA-related discussions.
The event was very well received, with over 170 RNA enthusiasts in attendance with some travelling from as far as New York and Montreal. The day began with a keynote address given by Dr. Erik Sontheimer (RNA Therapeutics Institute and the Program for Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School) integrating both historical discoveries his lab’s recent advances in uncovering new CRISPR/Cas pathways and gene regulatory mechanisms.
One of the main aims of TREnD 2016 was to provide an opportunity for trainees across all career stages to showcase their research, which is why the remainder of the day featured 12 oral presentations from only graduate students and post-docs. Notable speakers included Molecular Genetic trainees: Ji-Young Youn (Anne-Claude Gingras), John Laver (Howard Lipshitz/Craig Smibert labs) and Serge Gueroussov (Blencowe lab), who took home the prize for best talk of the day.
During the lunch break, there was a lively poster session with over 60 poster presenters. The best posters, based on trainees’ votes, were awarded to: Christina Chung (Western University), Susanna George (Western University) and Michael Ly, a Molecular Genetics undergraduate student from the Rissland lab. The combined oral and poster presentations truly showcased the diverse topics in RNA biology, including: alternative splicing mechanisms, RNA in therapeutics, transcription/post-transcriptional regulations, non-coding RNAs, RNA localization, and much more. They also highlighted the amazing science that is happening right in our own neighborhood.
The first of its kind in the region, TREnD 2016 provided trainees with valuable scientific feedback, exposed everyone to new ideas, helped establish new collaborations, and unified the scientific community. Generous sponsorship from the RNA Society, IDT, Illumina, New England Biolabs, Sick Kids, and Thermofisher/Lifetech made the day possible. Plans are already underway for next year’s symposium, and if you can’t wait until next year, you can get your monthly dose of RNA biology at the Toronto RNA Club meetings (http://www.torontorna.com). All RNA enthusiasts are welcome!