Irvine Calif., June 27, 2014 — The Center for Epigenetics & Metabolism at UC Irvine and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have agreed to a partnership to advance research on how genes and metabolism shape our bodies and minds.

The collaboration is supported by an initial four-year gift from the Saudi university, which is located in the coastal city of Thuwal 50 miles north of Jeddah. In addition to the UC Irvine partnership, KAUST hosts scientists from all over the world to conduct high-profile research related to water, food, energy and the environment.

UCI researchers participating in the collaborative research programs are Paolo Sassone-Corsi, CEM director and the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Chemistry, and Emiliana Borrelli, UC Irvine professor of microbiology & molecular genetics. At KAUST, collaborators are Valerio Orlando, bioscience professor and head of the KAUST Environmental Epigenetics Program, and Pierre J. Magistretti, KAUST dean of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering.

“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,” Magistretti said. “KAUST is excited to bring expertise to this partnership through its work in fundamental cellular processes that underlie epigenetic and metabolic mechanisms.”

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.

Collaborating with KAUST is the latest international collaborative research effort by Sassone-Corsi and Borrelli, who receive support and work with research teams from INSERM, the French government’s science agency, and Germany’s Max Planck Society, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific groups.

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.”

About the University of California, Irvine: Located in coastal Orange County, near a thriving high-tech hub in one of the nation’s safest cities, UC Irvine was founded in 1965. One of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities, it’s ranked first among U.S. universities under 50 years old by the London-based Times Higher Education. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine has more than 28,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.3 billion annually to the local economy.

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