Epitranscriptomics is the study of RNA modifications and their role in the regulation of gene expression. As happened for DNA, extensive covalent modification of RNA was found already in the 70s. Nevertheless, a spectacular expansion of epitranscriptomics occurred mostly in the past seven years, when an extensive layer of base decorations was discovered in mRNAs and shown to undergo cell modulation.

These modifications produce programmable fluctuations in mRNA levels, translatability and subcellular compartmentalization, affecting primary cell programs such as cell differentiation and response to stress. We thus anticipate that RNA modifications will prove as important as chromatin dynamics in shaping cell phenotypes. This emerging field is hence crucial for both basic science and application to human disease.

Epitranscriptomic would provide the missing link between genomic variability and cellular phenotypes, contributing to explaining the cause of specific diseases and developing novel therapies. Epitranscriptomic research is dominated by the US and China, with the EU lagging behind. We thus need to rapidly create a European framework to integrate and accelerate research efforts and industrial applications in this emerging field. To address this major European need, ROPES will train a group of Early-Stage Researchers who will become the seed of the European epitranscriptome science of this decade.

They will join a recently established network of academic research groups and biotech companies devoted to advancing our understanding of RNA modifications while promoting the development of new biomarkers and therapies. Focusing on RNA editing and m6A methylation, ROPES will investigate disease mechanisms and new therapies in the fields of cancer, stem cell diseases and innate immunity, while developing innovative epitranscriptomics methods.

The ROPES European Training Network is the first European effort to tackle the epitranscriptome for the advancement of medicine.

In order to achieve our goal, the ROPES Project is structured into six Work Pakages, as followed described:

WP1: Extending the tools of epitranscriptomics to fight diseases

WP2: Assessing the role of epitranscriptomics in pathology

WP3: Exploiting epitranscriptomics to identify new disease targets

WP4: Training on scientific, technical and transferable skills

WP5: Dissemination, Exploitation and Communication

WP6: Coordination and Management

The focus of the research will be carried out on the followings workpachages

WP1.: Extending the tools of epitranscriptomics to fight diseases:
Will increase the amount of data being generated on RNA modifications as an invaluable asset to allow systemic analyses and the computation-led identification of rules governing the connection between RNA marks and disease

WP2: Assessing the role of epitranscriptomics in pathology:
Will deal with two broad classes of disease states: cell proliferation imbalances (including stem cell diseases and cancer) and innate immunity alterations

WP3: Exploiting epitranscriptomics to identify new disease targets:
Will employ cutting-edge techniques to demonstrate proof-of-concepts approaches to modify the lifecycle of epitranscriptomic effectors and marks as therapeutic strategies in various diseases.

The ROPES network will be implemented through careful organisation of constituting governance and management bodies in charge of supervision, training, advisory, communication, dissemination and exploitation, as well as an expert UNITN team in charge of financial and coordination matters.