Course Title

RNA Structures & RNA based Drug Development

Course Code


Offered Study Year 2, Semester 2
Course Coordinators Wu Bin (Asst Prof) 6908 2207
Luo Dahai (Dr) 6592 3986
Pre-requisites BS1005 and BS2003
AU 3
Contact hours Lectures: 26, Tutorials: 13
Approved for delivery from
Last revised 9 Apr 2021, 11:15

Course Aims

This course aims to introduce the concepts involved in evaluating RNA related bio-macromolecules structurally. You will learn the importance of RNA in life sciences and drug discoveries. In addition, the course examines the status of current research regarding structural biology of RNA and RNA-based therapeutics.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon successfully completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Describe the key mechanisms of gene regulation by RNA
  2. Identify diseases where RNA therapies could offer a cure
  3. Evaluate the current state of RNA research in drug development
  4. Evaluate various RNA therapies, based on e.g. microRNA, siRNA, shRNA, RNAi
  5. Describe the molecular basis of gene editing techniques
  6. Communicate RNA research findings in written and presentation form

Course Content

Introduction to structural biology of RNA

The origin of RNA

Ribosome and the secret of life

Splicing and Spliceosomes

RNAi silencing machineries

CRISPR, silencing machineries targeting the genome

When RNA goes viral

Recognizing non-self RNA by immune system

RNA polymerases and RNA degradation machineries

The magic of Ribozyme

The mysteries of lincRNA

RNA therapeutics in the pipeline

RNA mimics, and the future of RNA therapeutics


Component Course ILOs tested SBS Graduate Attributes tested Weighting Team / Individual Assessment Rubrics
Continuous Assessment
Multiple Choice Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 1. a, b, c
2. a, b, e, f
5. a, b, c, d, e
7. a, c
20 individual See Appendix for rubric
Participation 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 5. b
10 individual See Appendix for rubric
Presentation 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 1. a, b, c
2. a, b, e, f, h
3. a, b, c, d, e, f, g
4. a, b
5. a, b, c, d, e
6. a, c
7. a, c
20 individual See Appendix for rubric
Examination (2.5 hours)
Essay and Short Answer Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 1. a, b, c
2. a, b, e, f, h
3. a, b, c, d, e, f, g
4. a, b
7. a, c
50 individual See Appendix for rubric
Total 100%

These are the relevant SBS Graduate Attributes.

1. Recognize the relationship and complexity between structure and function of all forms of life, resulting from an academically rigorous in-depth understanding of biological concepts

a. Possess a conceptual framework that identifies the relationships between the major domains in the field of biology.

b. Explain the relationship between structure and function of all forms of life at the molecular level

c. Explain the relationship between structure and function of all forms of life at the cellular level

2. Critically evaluate and analyze biological information by applying the knowledge, scientific methods and technical skills associated with the discipline

a. Identify the assumptions behind scientific problems and issues

b. Create and evaluate hypotheses

e. Analyze the validity of qualitative and quantitative scientific data

f. Evaluate results in primary biological literature

h. Identify unintended results as opportunities for discovery

3. Develop and communicate biological ideas and concepts relevant in everyday life for the benefit of society

a. Simplify and explain scientific concepts and results of experiments to a non-biologist (avoiding jargon)

b. Display and explain scientific results clearly and persuasively to peers both verbally and in writing (includes the ability to graph data appropriately and accurately).

c. Demonstrate an understanding of the recursive nature of science, where new results continually modify previous knowledge

d. Explain the role of peer review in science as a quality control mechanism

e. Discuss current critical questions in the field of biology

f. Demonstrate an understanding of the social and natural context of knowledge (role of science in society, influence of society on science)

g. Demonstrate an understanding of the history of ideas and development of the major fields of biology

4. Acquire transferable and entrepreneurial skills for career development

a. Demonstrate innovative approaches to solving problems in biological science, leading to new approaches or techniques

b. Demonstrate a flair for developing new technologies, attracting funding, marketing products and respecting IP rights

5. Develop communication, creative and critical thinking skills for life-long learning

a. Learn independently and then share that knowledge with others

b. Learn collaboratively and be willing to share expertise with peers

c. Demonstrate critical thinking skills such as analysis, discrimination, logical reasoning, prediction and transforming knowledge

d. Question the assumptions, sources, and contexts of scientific investigation

e. Demonstrate good observation skills and a curiosity about the world

6. Develop codes of social responsibility and scientific ethics, particularly in relation to biological advancement and applications

a. Debate the ethical implications of scientific processes and results

c. Respect regulations involving plagiarism and copyright

7. Demonstrate information literacy and technological fluency

a. Locate and evaluate information needed to make decisions, solve problems, design experiments, and understand scientific data

c. Evaluate and use biological databases (literature and public datasets)

Formative Feedback

During lectures, you complete Team-based Learning activities where they receive feedback on their progress in content areas. This helps you to achieve Intended Learning Outcomes 1 to 6. Right after the lectures, you will receive immediate feedback on how well you learn through sitting through a MCQ quiz. The marked quiz will be returned to you right away.

During tutorials, you will give presentations summarising what you have discovered in your readings each week. You will get feedback on your presentations regarding the quality of content and communication, thus helping you to achieve learning outcome 1, 2 and 6. Familiarizing with the topics will help you understand learning objectives 3, 4 and 5.

Two weeks before the exam, faculty will write a pre-exam summary, highlighting a few important learning objectives which will be very helpful for you in the future. After the exam period, faculty will write a summary of the exam outcome, including feedback on questions that were not handled as expected. This helps you to achieve outcomes 1 to 6.

Learning and Teaching Approach

(26 hours)

In lectures, we introduce key concepts in RNA research. This helps you to master the learning outcomes highlighted in the course curriculum.

Students will understand how to structurally evaluate RNA related bio-macromolecules. Students will also have a deep understanding of the importance of RNA in life sciences and drug discoveries. In addition, students will also be able to understand the significance of the current researches about structural biology of RNA. In each lectures, real biomedical cases related to the study topics will be brought to discussion.

We also have Team-based Learning activities where you will collaboratively learn RNA concepts thrugh a series of MCQ quizzes. There will be MCQ Quiz right after the lectures, so that the student will get immediate feedback on their study. Students will get the chance to discuss these questions among themselves to figure out what should be the 'more appropriate' answers.

(13 hours)

In tutorials we discuss case studies and application problems, which helps you to achieve outcomes 1 to 6.

We will provide certain cases in the course material related to each individual learning sessions. Students in groups of 4 or 5 will team up together to gather research material and solve these cases, in the format of presentation. Other groups of students will serve as audiences commenting on their classmates' study. The students interactions throughout the process will be evaluated and recorded as their Continuous Assessment.

For example, a few past examples of the case studies are about 'RNA mimics as antibiotics', 'novel gene silencing tools' and 'functional biochemical RNA sensors', etc.

Reading and References

1. James Darnell RNA: Life's Indispensable Molecule (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2011) ISBN-10: 1936113198
2. David Elliott and Michael Ladomery The Molecular Biology of RNA (OUP Oxford; 1st edition, 2011) ISBN-10: 0199288372
3. David S. Goodsell The Machinery of Life (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, USA, 2nd ed. 2009 Edition) ISBN-10: 0387849246

Course Policies and Student Responsibilities


If you miss the lecture, then you will not get the marks from the MCQ Quiz which take place every week after the lecture. The attendance of these Quiz will contribute towards your Continuous Assessment.


This is a small class course in team based learning format. Your team members can tell how much effort you put into this course. All quiz and final exam are close book, and disciplines applied. The school takes plagiarism very seriously.

Academic Integrity

Good academic work depends on honesty and ethical behaviour. The quality of your work as a student relies on adhering to the principles of academic integrity and to the NTU Honour Code, a set of values shared by the whole university community. Truth, Trust and Justice are at the core of NTU’s shared values.

As a student, it is important that you recognize your responsibilities in understanding and applying the principles of academic integrity in all the work you do at NTU. Not knowing what is involved in maintaining academic integrity does not excuse academic dishonesty. You need to actively equip yourself with strategies to avoid all forms of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, academic fraud, collusion and cheating. If you are uncertain of the definitions of any of these terms, you should go to the Academic Integrity website for more information. Consult your instructor(s) if you need any clarification about the requirements of academic integrity in the course.

Course Instructors

Instructor Office Location Phone Email
Wu Bin (Asst Prof) EMB 06-06 6908 2207
Luo Dahai (Dr) EMB 03-07 6592 3986

Planned Weekly Schedule

Week Topic Course ILO Readings/ Activities

Introduction to structural biology of RNA

3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study I, the origin of RNA

1, 3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study II, Ribosome and the secret of life

1, 2, 3, 6

Case Study III, Splicing and Spliceosomes

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study IV, RNAi silencing machineries

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study V, CRISPR, silencing machineries targeting the genome

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study VI, when RNA goes viral

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study VII, recognizing non-self RNA by immune system

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study VIII, RNA polymerases and RNA degradation machineries

1, 2, 3, 6

Case Study IX, the magic of Ribozyme

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Case Study X, the mysteries of lincRNA

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

RNA therapeutics in the pipeline

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

RNA mimics, and the future of RNA therapeutics

2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Appendix 1: Assessment Rubrics

Rubric for Tutorials: Multiple Choice Questions (20%)

At the end of the every lecture, a multiple choice quiz will be conducted to test whether the students paid sufficient attention to the lecture and studied the course material.

50% of the questions are about plain facts.
25% of the questions are testing whether students could applied these knowledge to biomedical problems.
25% of the questions are open ended multiple choices questions, testing the abilities of the students to link the new knowledge to other research topics.

Rubric for Tutorials: Participation (10%)

Asking good and relevant questions is a very important skill. When other groups are presenting, all students are welcome to challenge the opinions of the speaker and debate with facts. (50%)

Course coordinators will also reserve certain questions to the Q&A sessions. (50%)

Rubric for Tutorials: Presentation (20%)


2 - exceeds standard,

1.5 - meets standard,

1 - Nearly meets standard,

0.5 - Does not meet standard

Category Criteria Points
General Presentation and communication


Effectively uses eye contact


Speak clearly and effectively using suitable volume and pace


Use of words correctly


Time control


Introduces topic clearly and creatively


Presentation in a logical sequence


Visual aids are well prepared


Confident in presenting own ideas


Content (Introduction)

Correct use of references


Smooth Transitions between topics


Introduction is well organized with appropriate amount of information

and lays out the problem well/hypothesis


Introduction contains accurate information


Content (Result & Discussion)

Describe principle of experiments correctly


Presentation of data in professional manner


Analysis data professionally


Integrate knowledge from other modules for data analysis


Combines and evaluates existing knowledge and data to form new



Future direction with high originality and creativity



Demonstrate extensive knowledge of the topic by responding

confidently and precisely


Integrate knowledge from various sources to answer the questions


Total 40

Rubric for Examination: Essay and Short Answer Questions (50%)

Final 2.5-hour written examination (50%) Students choose to answer 4 out of 8 comprehensive questions containing short answer and essay question components.

Students are expected to apply the knowledge and skills they have learnt from this course to comment on topics related to RNA related structural complexes and RNA derivatives, as well as providing insights on how these bio-molecules could be used as therapeutics.Proposing reasonable new hypothesis, difficult part of the exam.Concise explanation with clear demonstration of understanding of how RNA and RNA related bio-molecules functions, average.Precise description of key structural details of RNA and RNA related bio-molecules, average.Name calling and drawing of basic biological processes related to RNA, basic.Course coordinators will go through detailed mock exam questions at the last study session.

Appendix 2: Intended Affective Outcomes

As a result of this course, it is expected you will develop the following "big picture" attributes:

Appreciate the importance of RNA-based research

Be aware of the impact of RNA-based therapeutics to the pharmaceutics industry

Willingness to work in a group and share ideas