The 2012 Lectures in Biology: A WORLD OF RNAs

“DNA makes RNA, RNA makes proteins, proteins make us” is the message we have come to accept as the central dogma of biology. The first two parts of this message are correct when used to outline those metabolic events, (transcription and translation), that process the genetic information in a cell. But that part addresses only a limited segment of the overall cellular metabolic activities which, “weaved” with many more, and in a regulated fashion, lead to the development of the organism.

All the phenotypic characteristics of an organism that can ultimately be linked to the specific utilization of the embedded genetic instructions in its cells are end products of metabolism. The cellular metabolism comprises a complex network of chemical reactions under biologically compatible conditions. These chemical transformations are made possible by the actions of biological catalysts, the enzymes. Up to a few years ago, it was universally accepted that all enzymatic activities emanated exclusively from proteins. Under this belief we used to preach another dogma: all enzymes are proteins, but not all proteins are enzymes.

The first part of the latter dogma is clearly no longer true. However, although the majority of the well studied biological catalysts are indeed proteins, a new class of biocatalysts has emerged, and its numbers are growing, i.e., catalytic RNAs. They are members of a larger family of non protein-coding RNAs which also include RNA molecules that contribute to the formation of biological structures and even large organelles, and others that serve as regulators of gene expression.

It is this world of RNAs that the 2012 Onassis Lecture Series will explore.
The special topics of the presentations will elucidate: the organization and attribution of the catalytic properties of the ribosome; the role of RNA in the function and control of the telomerase activity of cells; the ever-increasing world of micro RNAs and their participation in the regulation of a multitude of cellular process, including immunity and cancer.

It may not be an exaggeration to expect that, as we accumulate more information, the world of RNAs may become just as prominent in the overall cellular metabolism, as the world of proteins, and it will also include the long, non coding RNAs serving a scaffolds of structure-organizing centers with a dynamic role in cellular function.

The Region of Crete / Regional Development Fund of Crete (RDFC) is providing financial support to FORTH to partially cover its expenses in organizing and implementing the events of the Onassis 2012 Lecture Series

Venkatraman (Venki) Ramakrishnan
Medical Research Council, Cambridge, UK
Nobel Prize (2009) in Chemistry

Julie Cooper
Group Leader, Telomere Biology Laboratory, Cancer Research, London Research Institute, UK

Mark A. Lindsay
Professor, Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of Bath, Bath, UK

Joachim Lingner
Professor, School of Life Sciences, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Ecole Polytechnique, Federale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

Marina Rodnina
Professor, Director, Max Planck Insitute for Biophysical Chemistry, Gottingen, Germany

Gary Ruvkun
Professor, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Cambridge, Boston, USA

Eric Westhof
Professor, Director, Institut de Biologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS, Strasburg, France
Monday 9 July 09:00 - 09:45R e g i s t r a t i o n
09:45 - 10:00Welcome
10:00 - 11:15"Road to the structure of the ribosome"
Dr Venki Ramakrishnan
11:15 - 11:45B r e a k
11:45 - 13:00"Decoding of mRNA by tRNA and proteins"
Dr Venki Ramakrishnan
13:00 - 14:30L u n c h   B r e a k
14:30 - 15:45"Structure of human telomerase and its regulation at chromosome ends"
Prof. Joachim Lingner
Tuesday 10 July09:30 - 10:45"Functional Genomic and Deep Sequencing analysis of tiny RNAs from C. elegans"
Prof. Gary Ruvkun
10:45-11:15B r e a k
11:15 - 12:30"Functional Genomic and Deep Sequencing analysis of tiny RNAs from C. elegans"
Prof. Gary Ruvkun
12:30 - 14:00L u n c h  B r e a k
14:00 - 15:15"Telomeres and the challenges to chromosome integrity"
Dr Julie Cooper
Wednesday 11 July09:30 - 10:45"TERRA: Long non-coding RNAs at chromosome ends"
Prof. Joachim Lingner
10:45 - 11:15B r e a k
11:15 - 12:30"Telomeres and the challenges to chromosome integrity"
Dr Julie Cooper
12:30 - 14:00L u n c h   B r e a k
20:00 "Antibiotics and the cell's protein factory"
Public Lecture by Dr Venki Ramakrishnan
Thursday 12 July09:30 - 10:45"Shaping the proteome: checkpoints of mRNA selection by the ribosome"
Prof. Marina Rodnina
10:45 - 11:15B r e a k
11:15 - 12:30"Chemistry and movements on the ribosome"
Prof. Marina Rodnina
12:30 - 14:00L u n c h   B r e a k
14:00 - 15:15"Non-coding RNAs and the regulation of the innate immune response"
Prof. Mark A. Lindsay
Friday 13 July09:30 - 10:45"RNA structural Bioinformatics: from Sequence to Architecture. The Elementary Architectural Modules of RNA "
Prof. Eric Westhof
10:45 - 11:15B r e a k
11:15 - 12:30"The detection of the architectural Modules of RNA. The recent progress in RNA modelling"
Prof. Eric Westhof
12:30 - 14:00L u n c h   B r e a k
14:00 - 15:15"Pharmacological targeting of RNAs"
Prof. Mark A. Lindsay
15:15 - 15:30Closing Remarks

Deadline for Application
New deadline June 15, 2012



Researchers, Postdoctoral Associates, Graduate
and advanced Undergraduate students.

Financial Aid


The Onassis Foundation will support travel and accommodation expenses for up to thirty five Greek students and up to fifteen International students, selected on the basis of their academic performance. The financial aid for the travel of non-European students cannot exceed the maximum amount of the reimbursement provided for the travel of European students. Interested students should attach to their CV, a list of courses taken, their grades and two letters of recommendation. Excellent knowledge of English is required.



Students admitted on the basis of their academic performance will receive a certificate after successful participation in the lectures.


Application Form*
*Please use latin characters

Dear Sir,
I wish to participate in "The 2012 Lectures in Biology"

First Name:
Last name:

Please attach your CV (if applicable): (Select your CV file from your computer).

Additional Requirements for Students

  • Graduate students should attach their CV with a detailed description of their studies so far. Advanced undergraduate students should add to their CV a list of courses taken and their grades.
  • Two letters of recommendation should be sent by E-mail directly by the recommending persons to:

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