Program Snapshot

Once thought to exist only within cells, RNA is now known to be exported from cells and play a role in newly discovered mechanisms of cell-to-cell communication. The Common Fund’s Extracellular RNA Communication (ERC) program aims to establish fundamental biological principles of extracellular RNA secretion, delivery, and impact on recipient cells; to describe exRNAs in human biofluids and the extent to which non-human exRNAs are present; to test clinical utility of exRNAs; and to provide a data and a resource repository for the community at-large.

The Extracellular RNA Communication program issued its awards in 2013. Awardees were organized into the Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium poised to achieve the overall goals of the program. This included the establishment of data standards, a publication policy, a data portal, and tools and reagents available to the scientific community. The organization of the program and the Consortium is described in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles

Since the program was founded, awardees have published over 500 peer-reviewed publications, including 37 publications describing refinement of protocols. At present they have generated over 6,600 samples in 29 datasets totaling more than 33 billion RNAseq reads. They have published 8 software packages and 47 protocols all of which have been made available through the exRNA Portal ( They also published a landmark collection of papers released April 4, 2019 on the biology and possible clinical applications of exRNA in the Cell family of journals.

Additionally, the program received enthusiastic support from NIH leadership, and was approved for continuation beyond the present stage of the program. In the second stage, the program will focus on the development of tools and technologies to catalyze the field of extracellular RNA communication research. 


This page last reviewed on July 13, 2019