KAUST and the Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism (CEM) at UC Irvine have agreed to a partnership to advance research on how genes and metabolism shape our bodies and minds. 

KAUST researchers participating in the collaborative research programs are Bioscience Professor and Head of the Environmental Epigenetics Program Valerio Orlando, and Dean of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering Pierre J. Magistretti. At UCI, collaborators are CEM director and the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Chemistry Paolo Sassone-Corsi, and Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Emiliana Borrelli.

“Epigenetics is unearthing some fascinating links between the genes we are born with, and the processes of metabolism that help shape our bodies and minds,” said Magistretti. “KAUST is excited to bring expertise to this partnership through its work in fundamental cellular processes that underlie epigenetic and metabolic mechanisms.”

Orlando added, “The investigation of how during life time, cells of our body learn from the environment, memorize individual biological experiences, yet remain plastic to control adaptation and possibly transmit this ‘memory’ through generations is of one the new frontiers in Biology and Biomedicine; the joint efforts of KAUST and UCI on Epigenetics is a great opportunity to give significant contributions to the field.”

As part of this collaboration, CEM researchers will bring proficiency in metabolism, nutrition, behavior and neuroscience, which complements KAUST’s Environmental Epigenetics Program focus on cell plasticity, metabolism, adaptation and behavior. An exchange program for students, post-doctoral fellows and sabbatical professors will help further advancements in the field.

“The UCI-KAUST partnership is in an ideal position to perform next-generation research in epigenetics,” Sassone-Corsi said.

CEM periodically organizes a high-profile international symposium on epigenetics. In the future this event will become a joint KAUST-UC Irvine conference. These symposia are held at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering adjacent to the UC Irvine campus. It is planned that these combined symposia and courses and workshops on epigenetic technologies will proliferate.

“The newly established partnership between the Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism at UC Irvine and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology fulfills two major aspects of our mission,” said Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, dean of the School of Medicine. “It provides for unique scientific collaboration, and the student exchange, sabbatical professorships and the annual international congress on epigenetic control should further enrich this collaboration providing benefits to both institutions. I look forward to the scientific progress that this association will produce.”