About Us

RNA Canada:
Who we are

RNA Canada ARN (formerly called The Canadian Consortium of RNA Researchers, C2R2) is a non-profit organization, established in 2023. RNA Canada ARN researchers share an appreciation for the variety of RNA types and functions. They are working together to harness the power of RNA biology to improve the lives of Canadians via therapeutic, diagnostic, agricultural, and biotechnology advances.

  • RNA Canada ARN unites world-leading RNA scientists at universities and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies across Canada to form an extensive  and cohesive network.​

  • RNA Canada ARN trains the next generation of RNA researchers in classrooms and research labs across the country to accelerate RNA-related research discoveries and build a brighter future for Canada.​

  • RNA Canada ARN engages with the public, to teach Canadians about the features and uses of RNA technologies, so that they are empowered to access these technologies in their lives.

  • RNA Canada ARN collaborates with the government to set research priorities that maximize RNA discoveries, advance the economy, and enhance the lives of Canadians.

Read more about the goals and plans of RNA Canada ARN on our Mission page.

RNA Canada:
Organizational Structure

RNA Canada ARN is a network of over 300 academic and industry research labs from over 20 universities and several companies across Canada.

Members are organized into 7 Regional RNA Networks, based on geographical location.

The Board of Directors are elected by the members, and constitute the decision making arm of the organization. The Executive Committee, comprised of the President, Chairperson, Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer, is selected by the Board of Directors and provides the day to day leadership of RNA Canada ARN.

Six Standing Committees are focused on different activities of the organization, and report to the Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

An International Science and Industry Advisory Board provides oversight and advice to RNA Canada ARN.

Board of
Directors

RNA Canada ARN’s Board of Directors guides the initiatives and goals of the organization.

Directors are nominated and elected by RNA Canada ARN members from each region and hold two year terms.

Members of the Board of Directors

Pr. Sherif Abou Elela, Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec
Pr. Julie Claycomb, University of Toronto, Ontario
Pr. Thomas Duchaine, McGill University, Quebec
Pr. Anne-Claude Gingras, University of Toronto, Ontario
Pr. Pavan Kumar Kakumani, Memorial University, Newfoundland
Pr. Pascale Legault, Université de Montréal, Quebec
Pr. Howard Lipshitz, University of Toronto, Ontario
Pr. Sean McKenna, University of Manitoba, Manitoba
Pr. Jonathan Perreault, INRS, Quebec
Pr. Martin Simard, Université Laval, Québec
Pr. Poul Sorensen, University of British Columbia, British Columbia
Pr. Nehalkumar Thakor, University of Lethbridge, Alberta
Pr. Ly Vu, University of British Columbia, British Columbia
Pr. Hans-Joachim Wieden, University of Manitoba, Manitoba

Executive
Committee

The Executive Committee is comprised of the officers of RNA Canada ARN. These officers are  chosen by the Board of Directors from among the Directors. The role of the Executive Committee is to implement policy, advise the Board of Directors, and execute RNA Canada ARN goals and initiatives, providing day-to-day leadership of the organization.

Dr. Sherif Abou Elela is a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Disease (Infectiology) at the Universite de Sherbrooke. His lab’s research focuses on understanding the fundamental mechanisms controlling RNA synthesis and stability in eukaryotic cells (like humans) under normal conditions, as well as stress and disease states, like cancer. In recent years, his lab has demonstrated that RNA is a major source of cancer biomarkers and may predict tumour behaviour and drug resistance. Dr. Abou Elela has been a longstanding champion of the Canadian RNA Community, establishing the RiboClub seminar series and yearly conference nearly 25 years ago, and spearheading the formation of RNA Canada ARN in 2022. He has served as the director of the Sherbrooke Laboratory of Functional Genomics, the scientific director of Genome Quebec RNomics platform. Sherif is also the Canada Research Chair in RNA Biology and Cancer Genomics.

Dr. Howard Lipshitz is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. His lab’s research focuses on post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression by RNA-binding proteins. They use two model systems: early Drosophila embryos and human iPSCs, the latter to study RNA-binding proteins implicated in autism spectrum disorder. He has held academic leadership positions at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute (Associate Director, Program Head) and at the university (Chair, Department of Molecular Genetics). He is currently Editor in Chief of Genetics, the flagship journal of the Genetics Society of America, in which capacity he also serves on its Board of Directors. He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Society for Developmental Biology. Howard is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Sean McKenna is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Associate Dean (Programs) in the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba. His lab studies non-coding RNAs that function as scaffolds through which a network of mRNAs critical for tumour cell proliferation and migration are regulated, and on understanding the recognition of viral RNA by innate immunity enzymes. Dr. McKenna has participated in the RiboWest conference since 2009 and is the current organizer of the Manitoba RNA Salon. Dr. McKenna has served as a chair/scientific officer/member of CIHR Project Grant committees, an NSERC Discovery Grant evaluation group and an NSERC Scholarships & Fellowships Fellowships panel.

Dr. Julie Claycomb is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, at the University of Toronto. Her lab focuses on understanding small RNA-mediated gene regulation using the tiny worm C. elegans as a model system. Dr. Claycomb was the Canada Research Chair in Small RNA Biology from 2012-2022. Dr. Claycomb co-founded and co-organizes Toronto RNA Enthusiasts’ Day, and has led the Toronto RNA Club since 2016. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the RNA Society, the Canadian Representative on the International C. elegans Board (WormBoard), and is an Associate Editor at the journal GENETICS.

Dr. Nehal Thakor is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lethbridge. He is also affiliated with the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute (Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary), Southern Alberta Genome Science Centre (SAGSC), and the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience (CCBN). Dr. Thakor has a long-standing interest in studying the regulation of mRNA translation (protein synthesis). His current research is focused on understanding mechanisms of non-canonical translation initiation during cellular stress and oncogenesis. To this end, Dr. Thakor’s laboratory employs various cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and pan-omics techniques. Dr. Thakor is actively involved in organizing RiboWest conferences and he spearheaded the establishment of RNA Alberta ARN within the province of Alberta.

Standing
Committee Membership

There are six Standing Committees that help to develop and execute RNA Canada ARN’s goals.

Please reach out if you would like to volunteer for one of these committees and get in touch with committee chairs if you have any questions.

Chair: Dr. Hosna Jabbari

Membership and Analytics

E-mail: membership@rnacanada.ca

MANDATE: The Membership and Analytics Committee is responsible for managing all aspects of RNA Canada’s membership. The committee focuses on membership growth, improving member experiences, and developing a comprehensive understanding of the membership base and ecosystem.

Chair: Dr. Mark Bayfield

Outreach and Meetings

MANDATE: The committee’s primary role is to build, support, and connect the Canadian RNA research community through effective communication with all sectors, including members (trainees, professors and company representatives, elected officials, funding agencies, and the public. The committee is responsible for educating and informing the public about RNA biology in various formats. The committee’s key objectives are to connect the members to each other and to the goals of RNA Canada, and establish a visible public footprint for RNA Canada that is recognized by the general public and the government of Canada.

Chair: Dr. Michelle Scott

Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity

MANDATE: The EDI Committee is dedicated to fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion in all RNA Canada ARN activities and at every level. It aims to support RNA Canada ARN entities in establishing and implementing measures to:

  • Recommend fair processes and equitable outcomes for RNA Canada Activities.

  • Recognize, value, and embrace diversity within the RNA community.

  • Cultivate an environment where all RNA researchers are treated fairly and respectfully.

Chair: Dr. Eric Jan

Education

MANDATE: The Education Committee’s primary role is to coordinate training efforts in RNA biology and provide tools and support to undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral trainees across Canada. The Education Committee aims to create virtual training opportunities, identify training programs, offer career advice, and facilitate inter-laboratory training. The committee will foster an inclusive and supportive environment for trainees from diverse backgrounds and will assist them in identifying training and career opportunities in the field of RNA biology.

Chair: Dr. Jonathan Perreault

Industry Liaison

MANDATE:

The Industry Liaison Committee is dedicated to fostering collaboration and connections between the academic and industrial sectors of RNA research across Canada. The main goal of this committee is to promote interactions between industry and academic researchers in Canada and facilitate the development of Canadian RNA technologies.

Chair: Dr. Athan Zovoilis

Research Funding Coordination and Support

Email: grants@rnacanada.ca

MANDATE: The Research Funding Coordination and Support Committee’s primary goal is to proactively identify and communicate national and international networks and large-scale funding opportunities to RNA Canada members. The committee is responsible for forming grant-application work groups, coordinating the application process for projects with overlapping or complementary interests, and providing support to researchers interested in pursuing large-scale projects. The committee’s role is to facilitate the application process for large-scale funding opportunities rather than directly writing grants or securing funding.

International Science and
Industry Advisory Committee

The International Scientific Advisory Committee is composed of world-leaders in RNA biology, in both the academic and industry sectors. These high profile researchers provide guidance and input in developing and steering the goals and initiatives of RNA Canada ARN.

Members

(Chair) Dr. John Mattick: Unviersity of New South Wales, Australia
Dr. Thomas Preiss: The Australian National University, Australia
Dr. Sandra L. Wolin: National Institutes of Health, USA
Dr. Nahum Sonenberg: McGill University, Canada
Dr. Melanie Bourassa Forcier: Universite de Sherbrooke, Canada
Dr. Lorne Babiuk: University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Dr. Cindy Bell: Science Advocate and Former Vice President, Genome Canada, Canada
Dr. Keith Williams: First Nations Technical Institute