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13 February, 2018 - 11:25 By Tony Quested

Nobel Prize winner becomes STORM scientific adviser

Nobel Prize winner Professor Thomas Cech has been named as a scientific adviser at Cambridge-based STORM Therapeutics, a drug discovery company focused on the discovery of small molecule therapies modulating RNA epigenetics.

The appointment follows STORM Therapeutics’ successful Series A Financing extension announced in January. 

Professor Cech is Distinguished Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder and director, University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute. He has spent decades at the frontier of research into RNA biology discovering novel biologic mechanisms important to cellular function and shaping both academic and commercial efforts in the RNA field.

Professor Cech was the scientific founder of Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1992-99) which became Sirna Therapeutics and is now an operating subsidiary of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. He currently serves on the board of Merck & Co, Inc., New Jersey.

In 1982 Professor Cech and his research group announced that an RNA molecule from Tetrahymena, a single-celled pond organism, cut and rejoined chemical bonds in the complete absence of proteins. This discovery of self-splicing RNA provided the first exception to the long-held belief that biological reactions are always catalysed by proteins. 

In addition, it has been heralded as providing a new, plausible scenario for the origin of life; because RNA can be both an information-carrying molecule and a catalyst, perhaps the first self-reproducing system consisted of RNA alone.

In addition to the 1989 Nobel Prize, Professor Cech’s work has been recognised by many national and international awards and prizes. Professor Cech said: “Our understanding of RNA modification and its effects on biology and disease are increasing exponentially.

“Now is the time to begin exploring the therapeutic potential. I am enthused to contribute to STORM Therapeutics’ leading effort to develop small molecule modulators of RNA epigenetics.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Professor Thomas Cech

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