Congratulations to Dr. Mauro Calabrese, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, on being named a 2021-22 Yang Family Biomedical Scholar!
The UNC School of Medicine has named three outstanding researchers as recipients of the sixth annual Yang Family Biomedical Scholars Award. They are: Mauro Calabrese, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology, Nilu Goonetilleke, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, and Adam Hantman, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology. Calabrese is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Goonetilleke is a member of the UNC HIV Cure Center, and Hantman is a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center.
Dr. Calabrese focuses on the roles of molecules called long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) in gene regulation – a critical component of health and disease. The human genome produces billions of nucleotides worth of RNA, yet only about 2% of it encodes for proteins. Essentially all of the remaining RNA can be classified as lncRNA, the sheer amount of which and their predominance in the nuclei of cells hints at their importance in gene regulation.
Calabrese and colleagues found that regulatory function of lncRNA can be identified computationally, providing an initial indication that recurring sequence patterns do indeed exist in lncRNAs and that scientists can identify these patterns to predict the functions of lncRNAs. His work represents a major advance towards understanding complex biological processes involving the “other 98%” of all RNAs.
His computational methods are being widely adopted by other investigators in the field, indicative of his broad impact within the scientific community.