The annual RiboWest Conference was established in 2005 at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). Since then, this meeting has continuously grown and attracted participants from western and eastern Canada, northwest USA, and beyond. The non-competitive and collaborative atmosphere at the RiboWest Conference allows researchers to form important networks with their colleagues. This atmosphere also provides students the opportunity to present work in progress and obtain valuable feedback that may shape their future research. In addition to being hosted at UNBC, RiboWest has been held frequently at the University of Lethbridge since 2008, along with the University of Alberta (2015), the University of British Columbia (2017 & 2022), and the University of Manitoba (2019).

RiboWest2023 returned to its roots at UNBC, hosting 79 researchers from across Canada, Germany, and the USA. This year’s meeting was organized by Drs. Stephen Rader and Kendra Furber (UNBC), Nehal Thakor (U. Lethbridge), and Chris Nelson (U. Victoria). The size of the conference facilitates the intensive exchange of scientific findings and fosters the formation of interdisciplinary research networks from biochemistry to medical biology. RiboWest2023 also brought together industry partners who are interested in RNA-based technologies, including RNA-based therapeutics and vaccines for human, veterinary, and agricultural applications. Because of a strong emphasis on training the next generation of RNA researchers, career opportunities and mentor-mentee events were a major emphasis in the RiboWest2023 program. A discussion entitled “Fixing Academic Hiring,” highlighted the Yale Biochemistry Department’s experiments in anonymizing job applications to eliminate bias in their evaluation, and explored other strategies for improving diversity among academic faculty.

Keynote speakers are essential for setting a collaborative spirit and inspiring attendees, and this year featured a dynamic and engaging set of speakers: Dr. Tracy L. Johnson (Professor, Molecular, Cell and Development Biology Dean, Life Sciences, UCLA College), Dr. Karissa Sanbonmatsu (Los Alamos National Laboratory, Theoretical Biology and Biophysics Group, Theoretical Division), and Dr. Michael C. Levin (Professor of Neurology, University of Saskatchewan). They shared their newest findings on RNA research in health and disease, thereby showcasing the opportunities of using RNA as research tool, cellular regulator, and therapy.

The research presented by trainees at all levels was top notch, as demonstrated by the numerous awards for talks and posters.

PhD Talk Awards:

Brenna Hay (Jan Lab, UBC), Saurabh Tiwari (Thundathil Lab, U Calgary; Patel Lab, U Lethbridge), Yilin Liu (Vu Lab, UBC), Honourable Mention Daniiar Zhaguparov (Woodside Lab, U Alberta).

MSc Talk Awards:

Parleen Pandher (Gray Lab, UNBC), Christina Young (Jan Lab, UBC), Jenna Letain (Patel Lab, U Lethbridge), Honourable Mention Loc Ngo (Howard Lab, U Victoria)

Undergraduate Talk Awards:

Katie Yuen (Vu Lab, UBC), Jason Luddu (Thakor Lab, U Lethbridge)

PhD Poster Awards:

Jessica de Santis (Sorenson Lab, UBC), Maryam Ghaffarzadeh (Rader Lab, UNBC), Annalena Renner (Bergmann Lab, U Vienna and UBC)

MSc Poster Awards:

Andrew Poholka (MacMillan Lab, U Alberta), Cassi Penfold (Murray Lab, UNBC)

Undergraduate Poster Awards:

Serena Sanghera (Furber Lab, UNBC), Michelle Tong (Jan Lab, UBC)

This year’s RiboWest also featured the inaugural Gregg Morin Prize for the trainee who asked the best questions throughout the meeting, awarded to Andrew Poholka (MacMillan Lab, U Alberta).


The success of RiboWest2023 is made possible by both the participation of our outstanding Canadian RNA community, and the generous sponsorship of: CIHR, the RNA Society, Fisher Scientific, UNBC, UNBC Health Research Institute, Cytiva, Future Fields, Providence Therapeutics, Northern Centre for Clinical Research, Northern Health,  and New England BioLabs. In 2024, RiboWest will join TREnD and RiboClub in organizing a collaborative RNA Canada ARN meeting to be held September 30-October 4, 2024 in Ottawa, ON. We hope to bring the RiboWest spirit to this meeting — see you there!

For a summary of previous RiboWest conferences, please visit: