Advancing Epigenetics Towards Systems Biology

Epigenesys activities

First Awardee of EpiGeneSys Open Call for a Small Scale Collaborative Project selected!

Monday 02 April 2012 - Monday 02 April 2012



EpiGeneSys Small Scale Collaborative Projects provide early-stage scientists an opportunity to develop an idea for an independent project, write a proposal, and plan a budget—all as part of a competitive application process, reviewed by a panel of epigenetics and systems biology experts within the network.

Edda Schulz, a postdoc in Edith Heard's lab at Institut Curie, has been awarded 10,000€ for her proposal bringing together epigenetics and systems biology, which was submitted in the first EpiGeneSys Small Scale Collaborative Project Open Call. Applications were comprised of a short 3-page research summary bringing together epigenetics and systems biology. Proposals included objectives, rationale and methodology, and highlighted the originality, feasibility and potential impact of the project.

Edda, what sparked the idea for your project?

In my postdoc project I'm trying to understand why at the onset of X inactivation the non-coding Xist RNA is upregulated only from a single allele and only in female cells. I started out by developing a mathematical model of the Xist regulatory network that described the interactions between the known Xist regulators. Quite soon, however, it became clear that key players in the network were still unknown. So we started to think about screening for Xist activators located on the X chromosome and discussed this with Annick Harel-Bellan's lab at the CEA in Saclay outside Paris. They are experts in microscopy-based high content screening.

Where will your EpiGeneSys Small Scale Collaborative Project be carried out, and why are you doing the experiments there?

The Heard lab has a lot of expertise in analyzing X inactivation in differentiating ES cells, in particular by RNA FISH, which we are planning to use as a readout. But as a first step I will have to adapt our standard protocols to a high-throughput format suitable for the screen. The resulting assay will then be robotized by my collaborator Guillaume Pinna in Annick's lab, who will ultimately perform the screen. Interesting candidates will again be validated here in our lab on a small scale.

Had you ever applied for your own funding before; and what did you learn during the process?

I have applied for fellowships before, but this is the first time I wrote a research grant. You have to be much more detailed and precise, also because you have to say how much money you will need and for what exactly. Writing the application really forced me to think the project through to the very details.

What are you most looking forward to learning during the collaboration?

My discussions with Guillaume when we were writing the project already showed me how many issues must be considered when planning a screen. In the final publications the screen is usually described in a few sentences, but in reality a lot of details need to be considered in advance. You cannot just repeat the experiment when it fails, because it's so expensive and laborious.

Do you anticipate that these studies will contribute to an ongoing or future publication?

I'm really excited to see what we will find in our screen. Of course it will take a while to then validate the candidates that we will pull out, but if things work out the results should be of great interest to the community.