When Penn Medicine’s Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó won a Nobel Prize in October for their pioneering research on messenger RNA, they were laser-focused on the future, proclaiming that highly effective COVID-19 vaccines were just the beginning for the technology. On the docket are vaccines and treatments for peanut allergies; malaria; genital herpes; sickle cell, heart, and Lyme disease; and even future flu pandemics.

This ignited era of RNA therapeutics is being boosted by the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation, co-directed by Weissman, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, and physician and scientist James Hoxie. Newly located at One uCity Square, the Institute serves as a home base for RNA researchers working in biology, chemistry, immunology, modeling, vaccines, oncology, genetic diseases, and bioengineering to collaborate across disciplines.

During an opening celebration for the Institute on Tuesday, attended by Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, Penn President Liz Magill, and about 100 others from the University and Penn Medicine communities, Weissman said the Institute was already collaborating with more than 250 labs across the country and world, with intentions to collaborate with a total of 500 by next year.

“Science occurs because of collaboration,” Weissman insisted.

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