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Bing Ren, head of the gene regulation lab at the University of California, San Diego’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, is one of four researchers nationwide to have been awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to study the human epigenome, a collection of modifications that alter the behavior of genes.

Ren calls the epigenome the “next frontier of genomic research,” as he and other researchers work to gain a better understanding of what drives human development and disease.

“Such modifications to the genetic blueprint may provide part of the answer to why some people are more susceptible to disease than others,” Ren said in a release put out by UCSD. “Our hope is that understanding how and when epigenetic processes control genes throughout our lives will lead to more effective ways to prevent and treat disease.”

The five-year, $16.6 million grant will support The San Diego Epigenome Center at the Ludwig Institute, one of four centers in the country chosen to take part in the overall $190 million NIH program. Other local researchers involved include Joseph Ecker from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and Wei Wang of the UCSD Department of Chemistry.

DAVID WASHBURN

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