A big boost for RNA medicine research

The Sidney Altman RNA Therapeutic Hub is a new research project that puts Quebec at the forefront of life-saving RNA therapies.

The Sidney Altman RNA Therapeutic Hub is a new research project that puts Quebec at the forefront of life-saving RNA therapies.

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Say hello to the Sidney-Altman RNA Therapeutic Hub. Inaugurated today by the UdeM-affiliated IRCM, it gives scientists a major tool in their arsenal against diseases like cancer.

Sydney Altman

Sydney Altman

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Some of the leading minds in medical science are coming together in Montreal with the launch of the Sidney Altman RNA Therapeutic Hub, a new research project that puts Quebec at the forefront of life-saving RNA therapies.

Developed with Université de Montréal and named after Altman, a Montrealer and Nobel-Prize-winning molecular biologist who died last year at 82, the initiative was announced today at the annual gala of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) Foundation.

“Montreal is increasingly becoming a centre of excellence for RNA technologies and personalized medicine, and we need to intensify our efforts to advance research, find urgently needed treatments for major diseases and improve patient care," said IRCM president and scientific director Jean-François Coté.

“We named our new institution after Sidney Altman to pay tribute to a pioneer in RNA medicine research," he added. "Dr. Altman was a Nobel Prize in chemistry and a great all-around Montrealer and Quebecer. Shortly before his death in 2022, he had joined the IRCM as professor in residence and also Université de Montréal’s faculty of medicine as a visiting professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular medicine. Dr. Altman’s work is an inspiration. This centre is our way of building on his legacy.”

‘’Precision medicine, a fast-growing field, is at the heart of many of our faculty's research projects," added Dr. Patrick Cossette, UdeM's dean of medicine. "So it's only natural for us to actively support this innovative project focusing on RNA therapeutics and their clinical applications, especially since IRCM scientists are an integral part of the UdeM faculty. Their cutting-edge advances and discoveries in this field also feed into their teaching, reinforcing our commitment to this forward-looking avenue of medical research."

'An innovative new approach'

RNA-based and RNA-targeted therapies will be an important focal point for future biomedical and biopharmaceutical research. These therapies offer an innovative new approach to targeting human diseases as well as medical conditions of a variety of types: common, infectious, rare, untreatable.

The centrepiece of the IRCM hub is a new therapeutic RNA platform enabling specialized services in the design (using bioinformatics and artificial intelligence), synthesis, validation, and optimization of small molecule RNA therapeutics. The platform also provides biodistribution and toxicity testing capabilities to facilitate the transition from the preclinical stage to investigational new drug (IND)-enabling testing and clinical studies.

Ten new projects in the pipeline at the hub include therapies for various types of cancer, as well as cardiometabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. The IRCM has been working closely with major public and private partners on these developments.

Several major institutions in the health sciences network will be participating in this initiative, including the Centre de recherche de l’Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, the Centre de recherche du CHU Sainte-Justine, the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal Research Centre (CRCHUM), the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI), the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), and UdeM's Department of Biochemistry.

Despite a wealth of expertise already established in Montreal and in Quebec at large, the full potential of RNA therapies has yet to be tapped. In establishing the Sidney-Altman RNA Therapeutic Hub, the IRCM promises to become a powerful engine of growth and innovation in RNA therapeutics, bringing hope to patients and also giving a major boost to the economy.

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