About us 

RNA Science

RNA is at the core of our biology – the software of life – translating our DNA into the very products and processes that make us human.


The UNSW RNA Institute was established to perform a similar function: to translate the potential of NSW bioscience into the products that will improve our health and the quality of our lives. These products are the vaccines and treatments for emerging diseases like COVID-19 but also serve as advanced therapeutics for the complex challenges posed by cancers, infectious diseases, rare genetic disorders, and neurodegenerative conditions – all areas to be pioneered by the UNSW RNA Institute.

For all the tantalising potential of RNA science, the progress has been stymied by a bottleneck of scale and, formerly, cohesion. The wealth of RNA expertise in NSW – represented by its talent and facilities – has been kept separate by the physical boundaries of research institutions and the more abstract boundaries of research discipline. And this is where we find the UNSW RNA institute.

The mission of the UNSW RNA Institute is bold.

A new ‘RNA ecosystem’ is emerging in NSW, made from a robust network of collaborating research institutions, such as those 14 universities that constitute the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance and the dozen research organisations within the NSW RNA Production and Research Network.

The UNSW RNA Institute is the key connective hub of this ecosystem, uniting researchers from previously disparate disciplines – biology, chemistry, medicine – and connecting them with the facilities they need to translate their research.

This interdisciplinary research approach is significantly shaping the landscape of RNA technologies and therapeutics, creating a substantial impact on advancing solutions for human welfare.

Our mission is to grow and support the NSW RNA Ecosystem:
• mRNA Vaccines
• Other RNA Therapeutics
• RNA Delivery Systems

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Meet the team

The UNSW RNA Institute is Australia’s leading RNA research institute, bringing together researchers from UNSW Science, Engineering and Medicine & Health, led by Director, Professor Pall Thordarson, with collaborative input from other universities and institutes.


Prof Pall ThordarsonProf Pall Thordarson 

Prof Pall Thordarson (Palli) obtained his BSc from the University of Iceland in 1996 and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from The University of Sydney in 2001. Following a Marie Curie Fellowship in the Netherlands he returned to Australia in 2003 and was then appointed at UNSW Sydney in 2007 as a Senior Lecturer where he became a Full Professor in 2017. He is currently the Director of the UNSW RNA Institute and the President of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI). He is also a program leader for the NSW RNA Production and Research Network and leads the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance on the behalf of the NSW Vice-Chancellor’s Committee. 

Palli has published over 130 referred papers, including in prestigious journals such as Nature and Nature Nanotechnology. His research interest ranges from Nanomedicine and Light-harvesting Materials to Supramolecular and Systems Chemistry. He is focused on advancing our understanding of how molecules interact with one another and ‘self-assemble’, and how self-assembly can then be harnessed to create novel functional materials and systems. His key RNA research activities include nanoparticle delivery systems, RNA synthesis, RNA supramolecular chemistry and bioconjugate chemistry.  

He has received a number of awards including the 2012 Le Fèvre Memorial Prize from the Australian Academy of Science for outstanding basic research in Chemistry by a Scientist under the age of 40.

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RNA Medicine

RNA Biology

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