New Faculty Member at Rockefeller Works to Untangle Mysteries of RNA Folding

An essentially inert thread of genetic information, RNA reaches its potential upon folding into specific 3D structures. Only then can RNA catalyze biochemical reactions, aid in protein synthesis, and regulate the cell. Life as we know it therefore hinges not only on RNA, but on a given RNA strand adopting just the right shape to do its job. But little is known of the intricate choreography behind RNA folding. Decoding that process could unlock treatments for neurological diseases that have been linked to RNA misfolding, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It could also lead to novel drugs for short-circuiting replication of RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Untold discoveries may be unleashed once scientists unpack what makes one of life’s most fundamental molecules tick. Steve L. Bonilla, PhD, the newest addition to The Rockefeller University faculty and one of the first scientists who used cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to capture small and dynamic RNA 3D structures, is a structural biologist who studies how RNA folds and how the structure of RNA helps viruses replicate. Dr. Bonilla will join Rockefeller on October 1, 2023 as a tenure-track assistant professor, and Head of the Laboratory of RNA Structural Biology and Biophysics.

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