The mission of LucernaTM is to be the market leader in the development of RNA-based research reagents that enable scientific discovery.
An important research reagent that has revolutionized biomedical research is the discovery of green fluorescent protein (GFP) and the development of GFP as a tagging tool in bioscience. With the aid of GFP and related fluorescent proteins, scientists were able to see previously invisible proteins and learn how these proteins are localize, and how these localizations change in response to various cellular stimuli. In addition to proteins, RNA is now recognized as having a degree of biological complexity that rivals that of proteins. Indeed, over the last 10 years, it is now clear that the number of noncoding RNA molecules in the cell exceeds the number of mRNAs. These diverse species include microRNAs, Piwi-interacting RNAs, termini-associated RNAs and other noncoding RNAs. This diversity is especially prominent in neurons, which rely on RNA localization and localized RNA processing events. A major goal in biological research is to determine their cellular functions. A similar set of tagging tools that allow RNA molecules to be expressed as fluorescently tagged species in live cells, and which allow these RNAs to be imaged by fluorescence microscopy, would constitute an important research-enhancing commercial product.
Current techniques for imaging RNA in live cells suffer from major limitations that make them difficult to use, and produce results of dubious validity. LucernaTM founders have invented a novel genetically encodable system to fluorescently tag RNAs in cells that overcomes drawbacks of previously described RNA imaging systems. This system utilizes an RNA sequence element, termed Spinach, which is appended to an RNA of interest, and which “switches on” the fluorescence of an otherwise non-florescent dye. This dye is based on the structure of the fluorophore in GFP, making Spinach an RNA mimic of GFP.
LucernaTM aims to commercialize the Spinach technology by developing a line of toolkits that will enable researchers to easily image both mRNAs an noncoding RNAs in living cells and thereby providing insights into the function of these RNAs in cell biology and disease pathogenesis. Areas that are currently unclear but addressable with our technology include RNA trafficking, RNA degradation, toxic RNA aggregation, and potentially other RNA regulatory mechanisms. We believe that the Spinach technology will greatly facilitate research on the cell biology of RNA similar to the way fluorescent protein technology accelerated the cellular understanding of proteins.
LucernaTM was founded by researchers from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in 2010. The founding team has collectively over 25 years of experience in the field of RNA biology, aptamer development, and fluorescence imaging. The founders are also the inventors on the fluorescent RNA aptamer technology patents and have published many high profile scientific papers on the technology. LucernaTM has in place a management team with significant industry experience and a diverse Scientific Advisory Board that consists of many leading experts in the fields of RNA biology, microfluidics, molecular imaging, and small molecule chemistry.