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New Epigenomics Initiative

BC Cancer Agency Genome Sciences Centre plays a key role in an NIH-funded, multi-centre epigenomics project.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced that their new NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program will invest more than $190 million over five years in the study of epigenetic processes.

‘Epigenetics’ is the study of heritable changes in the regulation of gene expression that do not depend on
DNA or gene sequence. Epigenetic changes are essential for normal cellular metabolism and differentiation, and therefore are essential for the development and aging of an organism. Epigenetic changes also appear to be important in how many types of diseases, including cancers, develop.


’Epigenomics’ involves analyzing the overall epigenetic state of a genome. The goal of the NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Program is to generate a better understanding of when and how epigenetic processes control genes. Such understanding will support biomedical researchers in developing more effective methods for preventing and treating disease.

Within the Roadmap Program, BC Cancer Agency Genome Sciences Centre (BCGSC) Director Marco Marra, PhD, and Joseph F. Costello, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at UCSF, are leading a project on ‘Integrated Epigenetic Maps of Human Embryonic and Adult Cells’. In this project, the BCGSC will work cooperatively with genome centers at USCF, UC Davis and UCSC to comprehensively map the epigenomes of selected types of human cells that are relevant to complex human diseases. The teams will work with cells from the blood, brain and breast, as well as with US Government-approved lines of human embryonic stem cells. By using advanced informatics to integrate the epigenomic, genetic and expression data that they generate, they will address the fundamental roles of epigenetic processes in differentiation, maintenance of cell-type identity and gene expression. They will generate methods, tools and reference epigenome maps that the research community will use to advance the understanding of complex human diseases.

For more information:

NIH Announces Funding for New Epigenomics Initiative

List of Investigators


Review article: A glimpse into the epigenetic landscape of gene regulation


Page last modified Oct 10, 2008