Nathan Baird PhD

Nathan Baird PhD

Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry


BS, Chemistry and Spanish, Wheaton College

PhD, Chemistry, The University of Chicago

Postdoctoral Training, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Research Interests

  • Investigation of RNA folding/function and structure/function relationships
  • Development of novel high-throughput screening assays for targeting structured RNAs with small molecules
  • Identification of RNA-focused chemical scaffolds for the development of drug leads
  • Structural characterization of RNA-ligand interactions


New paradigms in RNA biology are rapidly emerging from reports of pervasive transcription and RNA structure across genomes.  Furthermore, decades of research demonstrate that RNA regulates many processes central to human health and disease.  However, RNA remains a disproportionately under-explored target for drug discovery and basic chemical biology research.  Progress in this area of biomedical research will require new interdisciplinary approaches at the forefront of chemistry and biology to identify and characterize RNA-small molecule interactions. 

Work in my lab employs a two-phase methodology.  First, we aim to develop new high-throughput screening assays for targeting structured RNAs with small molecules.  These assays identify ligands that modulate RNA conformational changes.  Second, we employ structural biology techniques to characterize RNA-ligand interactions, leading to the rational design of improved ligands.  Iterations of this cross-discipline approach will result in advances toward novel therapeutic leads and synthetic biology tools.

Selected Scholarly Activity

Baird N.J., West J., Sosnick T.R. “RNA structure and folding analyzed using small-angle X-ray scattering.” Handbook of RNA Biochemistry, 2nd Edition, Ed. Roland K. Hartmann, Ed. Albrecht Bindereif, Ed. Astrid Schön, Ed. Eric Westhof. Weinheim: Wiley-Vch, 407-427 (2014)

Baird, N.J., Ferré-D’Amaré, A.R. “Analysis of riboswitch structure and ligand binding using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS)” Methods Mol Biol 1103, 211-25 (2014)  

Baird, N.J., Ferré-D’Amaré, A.R. “Modulation of quaternary structure and enhancement of ligand binding by the K-turn of tandem glycine riboswitches” RNA 19, 167-176 (2013)               

Baird, N.J.*, Zhang, J.*, Hamma, T., Ferré-D'Amaré, A.R. “YbxF and YlxQ are bacterial homologs of L7Ae, and bind K-turns but not K-loops” RNA 18, 759-770 (2012) *Authors contributed equally to this work.

Baird, N.J., Ludtke, S.J., Khant, H., Chiu, W., Pan, T., Sosnick, T.R­. “Discrete structure of an RNA folding intermediate revealed by cryo-electron microscopy” J Am Chem Soc 132, 16352-3 (2010)

Baird, N.J., Kulshina, N., Ferré-D'Amaré, A.R. “Riboswitch function: Flipping the switch or tuning the dimmer?” RNA Biology 7, 328-332 (2010)

Baird, N.J., Gong, H., Zaheer, S.S., Freed, K.F., Pan, T., Sosnick, T.R. “Extended structures in RNA folding intermediates are due to nonnative interactions rather than electrostatic repulsion” J Mol Biol 397, 1298-306 (2010)

Baird, N.J., Ferré-D'Amaré, A.R. “Idiosyncratically tuned switching behavior of riboswitch aptamer domains revealed by comparative small-angle X-ray scattering analysis” RNA 16, 598-609 (2010)

Kulshina, N.*, Baird, N.J.*, Ferré-D'Amaré, A.R. “Recognition of the bacterial second messenger cyclic diguanylate by its cognate riboswitch” Nat Struct Mol Biol 16, 1212-7 (2009), *Authors contributed equally to this work.

Baird, N.J., Fang X.W., Srividya, N., Pan, T., Sosnick, T.R. “Folding of a universal ribozyme: the ribonuclease P RNA” Q Rev Biophys 40, 113-61 (2007)

Baird, N.J., Srividya, N., Krasilnikov, A.S., Mondragon, A., Sosnick, T.R., Pan, T. “Structural basis for altering the stability of homologous RNAs from a mesophilic and a thermophilic bacterium” RNA 12, 598-606 (2006)

Baird, N.J., Westhof, E., Qin, H., Pan, T., Sosnick, T.R. “Structure of a folding intermediate reveals the interplay between core and peripheral elements in RNA folding” J Mol Biol 352, 712-22 (2005)

Contact Information

Office location: Griffith Hall, Room 160
Mailing address: Box #48, University of the Sciences
University of Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495
Office Phone: 215-596-7396

n [dot] baird [at] usciences [dot] edu