09.11.2016 change 09.11.2016

Poland - U.S. Science Award for research on RNA structure

Professors Richard Kierzek from Poland and Douglas H. Turner from the U.S. - conducting RNA research - received the Poland - U.S. Science Award. The award was granted for the second time jointly by the Foundation for Polish Science and the world\'s largest scientific association AAAS.

Prof. Ryszard Kierzek from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań and Prof. Douglas H. Turner from the University of Rochester have been awarded for the research on thermodynamics, biology and structure of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and RNA chemical synthesis. The Foundation for Polish Science representatives informed about the award in the release sent to PAP on October 26.

The Poland - U.S. Science Award is granted jointly by the Foundation for Polish Science and the world\'s largest scientific association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). It is presented to a pair of scientists, one working in Poland and one in the United States, for outstanding scientific achievements resulting from their collaboration. Each of the winners receives the equivalent of five thousand U.S. dollars.

"This award highlights the role of Polish-American scientific cooperation. It shows that the outcomes of this cooperation are great scientific achievements, which result from complementary work on the part of both scientists. Their shared achievements would have been impossible had they worked separately. We hope that the successes of our laureates will become an inspiration for conducting joint scientific investigations for other researchers" - said Prof. Maciej Żylicz, President of the Foundation for Polish Science.

Kierzek and Turner started their cooperation more than 30 years ago. The results of their scientific work allowed to predict the structure of any RNA based on its sequence. Their research also allowed to determine the thermodynamic RNA folding rules. Currently, this method is used by most of the groups involved in RNA research. Due to the relationship between the structure and biological function of RNA, their joint work made a significant contribution to the study of native RNA, also correlated with many human diseases. For several years they have been focusing on the use of modified oligonucleotides to modulate biological activity of pathogenic RNAs; one of the applications is inhibiting the growth of the influenza virus.

Since the onset of Prof. Kierzek and Prof. Turner’s work, the thermodynamics and structure of RNA have had a great influence on the scientific community, especially on biochemists and biologists. Their collaboration has been hugely fruitful, with more than 60 joint publications, all with numerous citations.

Prof. Ryszard Kierzek is the head of RNA Chemistry and Biology Laboratory at the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry PAS in Poznań. He was a visiting professor in the U.S. several times. He specialises in deals with bio-organic chemistry and structural biology of RNA. In his research he uses chemistry, biology, thermodynamics, bioinformatics and structure of RNA to modulate biological activity of RNA correlated with human diseases. He has published 150 scientific articles, which have been cited more than 6,000 times. He is a laureate of the Foundation for Polish Science MISTRZ award.

Prof. Douglas H. Turner, in turn, is associated with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Rochester. Prof. Turner is an internationally acclaimed expert on biophysics of RNA, especially the parameters allow for the prediction of RNA folding, known as the "Turner Rules". He has published more than 230 scientific articles, cited more than 15,000 times.

The presentation of the Poland - U.S. Science Award will take place on 15 November in Warsaw.

The award was established in 2013. It is granted once every two years in a competition based on nominations. This year, the award was granted for the second time. The winners of the first competition were Prof. Mariusz Jaskólski and Dr. Alexander Wlodawer for research in the field of structural biology.

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