We study RNA-driven biological pathways with the goal of improving the understanding and treatment of human disease, and advancing biotechnology and industrial applications.

• Overview - Non-coding RNAs: The numerous small RNAs that do not encode proteins but function directly in cellular processes (a.k.a. the non-coding RNAs) are one of the most exciting areas of research in biology today. Our work on ncRNA-protein systems has provided insights into the causes and treatment of diseases including spinal muscular atrophy, dyskeratosis congenita and cancer.
• Current focus - RNA-guided invader defense in prokaryotes: Archaea and bacteria (both pathogenic and beneficial) are constantly attacked and destroyed by viruses and other genome invaders. We are working to delineate a series of newly-identified RNA-mediated immune systems that protect prokaryotes from viruses and other invaders - the CRISPR-Cas systems. This exciting research is leading to new ways to strengthen beneficial microorganisms that produce food, pharmaceuticals and biofuels, combat disease-causing bacteria, and prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Funding: 
National Institutes of Health (NIH): Delineation and development of the three CRISPR-Cas invader defense pathways in the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Determination of key steps in CRISPR-Cas protection in Streptococcus thermophilus, a probiotic bacterium used in yogurt and cheese production. The Nora L. Redman Fund: Investigation of the etiology and treatment of childhood diseases. Danisco (DuPont): Investigation of CRISPR RNA-mediated protection of food cultures. UGA Technology Commercialization Office: Development of biotechnological applications of the CRISPR-Cas systems. Invitrogen (Life Technologies): Investigation of biotechnological applications of the CRISPR-Cas systems. Office of the Vice President for Research, Franklin College, and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of Georgia: Continuing development of leading research programs and personnel.

Publications