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$10 million gift to support cutting-edge epigenome center at USC

Los Angeles, Oct. 2, 2007The Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) received a $10 million gift from the Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation that will be critical in launching one of the nations first research centers devoted to the study of epigenetics.

The grant will solidify USCs position at the forefront of epigenetics researcha field that holds great promise in the treatment and prevention of cancer, says Peter Jones, Ph.D., director of the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Keck School.

This gift is critical to the university because of the large amount of epigenetics research that has already taken place at USC, Jones says. Weve been one of the leaders in the field for some time and the commitment of the Norris Foundation will allow us to expand our capabilities. We shall now be able to use high throughput techniques to sequence entire epigenomes for the first time. Such approaches would have been unthinkable even a short while ago.

Epigenetics is the study of how chemicals that attach to DNA and proteins can switch genes on and off without changing the fundamental genetic information. Understanding how specific genes switch on and off has vast implications for the prevention and treatment of cancer and other diseases. Jones, a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research, says he expects the Epigenome Center at USC will play an integral role in the international epigenome project he is spearheading.

Most of the research up to now has been focused on genetics, Jones says. Now, people are starting to realize that epigenetic processes that package the genome are critical to how it can be used in different cells. When the packaging is right, cells work. When it goes wrong disease can occur.

Ronald Barnes, executive director and trustee of the Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation, says he is pleased that the grant will help the university

Contact: Meghan Lewit
University of Southern California

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