A half-day symposium on structured (noncanonical) nucleic acids will be held on April 18, 2023, in Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library, Penn State University Park. The event will culminate with the keynote Robert Simpson and Sons Lecture in Molecular Medicine, given by Karen Vasquez, professor and division head of pharmacology and toxicology in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Texas at Austin. The event is sponsored by the Robert Simpson and Sons Lecture Fund and by the Penn State Center for Medical Genomics.
The symposium begins at 1 p.m. with a tutorial on structured nucleic acids, presented by Kateryna Makova, professor of biology and Verne M. Willaman Chair of Life Sciences at Penn State. At 1:30 p.m., Penn State faculty will give short talks about the essential role of structured nucleic acids in plants and animals. Applications to human diseases, agriculture, and evolution will be covered. Confirmed speakers include Sally Assmann, Department of Biology; Phil Bevilacqua, Department of Chemistry; Kristin Eckert, Department of Pathology (Penn State College of Medicine); and Ilias Georgakopoulos-Soares, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (College of Medicine). At 3 p.m., Karen Vasquez will present the Robert Simpson and Sons Lecture in Molecular Medicine, titled “Novel Mechanisms of Genetic Instability in Cancer.” A reception will be held immediately following the seminar in the Garden Room of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center.
Vasquez has been studying mechanisms of DNA structure-induced genetic instability related to genetic diseases, with a focus on cancer, for over 30 years. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from Baylor College of Medicine and received postdoctoral training in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology at Yale University. Scientific contributions of the Vasquez laboratory include more than 125 publications in the area of genomic instability.
The Robert Simpson and Sons Lectureship honors its namesake and is made possible through donations from Simpson's family, friends, colleagues, and associates. Simpson was an international leader for more than 35 years in research on chromatin — a fundamental component of chromosomes — and its role in gene regulation. Simpson was at the National Institutes of Health from 1970 until 1995, when he became the Verne M. Willaman Professor of Molecular Biology at Penn State. His addition to Penn State in 1995 is considered to have placed the University and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the forefront of chromatin research and to have greatly enhanced Penn State's research and educational missions.
More information about the symposium is available on the Structured Nucleic Acids Day website