Robert Batey, Ph.D.
Dr. Batey is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he has been since 2001. He received his Ph.D. degree in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997 with Professor Jamie Williamson and was a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow at Yale University with Professor Jennifer Doudna from 1997 to 2001.
The Batey laboratory seeks to understand how structured RNA elements direct gene expression. In 2004, his research team was the first to reveal the structural basis for small molecule binding by a naturally-occurring regulatory element called a riboswitch. These sequences, frequently found in bacterial mRNAs, directly bind a small molecule effector to an “aptamer” that directs a structural switch that in turn informs the expression machinery. Since these first insights, the Batey laboratory has worked extensively on the structural and mechanism of spectrum of riboswitches that bind diverse small molecules including guanine, S-adenosylmethionine, lysine, tetrahydrofolate, vitamin B12, and the purine biosynthetic intermediate ZMP. Using a combination of structural, biochemical and cell-based approaches, the Batey laboratory has provided many of the key insights into how small molecule binding by RNA can be harnessed to regulate mRNA expression.
More recently, we have sought to leverage our knowledge of natural aptamers to develop new approaches to evolving synthetic aptamers in vitro for cellular applications. We have shown that certain RNA architectures can act as privileged scaffolds, capable of hosting novel binding activities and retain robust intracellular function. These efforts are ongoing with the goal of developing a broad range of synthetic aptamers for a range of diagnostic and therapeutic applications.