Profile – Dr Emmanuelle Vire, University College London

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Dr Emmanuelle Vire

Job title:

Associate Professor

Place of work / study:

University College London (UCL) Institute of Prion Diseases

Area of Research:

We explore if epigenetics is a hallmark of protein-based inheritance in neurodegeneration. Our research specifically investigates epigenetic mechanisms in human prion diseases. We employ a large array of technologies (transcriptomics, epigenomics, cell-based assays, animal models, patients samples) to determine if, where, when and how epigenetics contribute to disease susceptibility, onset, and progression. Using next-generation technologies we profile DNA, RNA, and histone modifications and identify disease-specific gene (coding and non-coding) signatures and pathways. Some of our current projects also involve machine learning, nanopore sequencing, small molecule inhibitor and genome editing.

Ultimately, our research aims to uncover protein-based inheritance signatures that could be manipulated through drugs and/or lifestyle changes.

How is your work funded?

The UCL Institute of Prion Diseases is core funded by the MRC. I also secured funding from the CJD Foundation and ARUK.

Tell us a little about yourself:

Originally from Brussels, Belgium, I trained as a molecular biologist and a classical pianist. My PhD with Prof. Francois Fuks focused on DNA methylation in cancer. In 2008 I moved to Cambridge, UK, to work with Prof. Tony Kouzarides at the Gurdon Institute. My work investigated the regulation of non-coding RNAs in rare forms of breast cancer. In 2015 I decided to shift field and started to work with Prof. Simon Mead on human prion diseases. It is really exciting to wok hand-in-hand with clinicians and be part of a very collaborative community.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself:

When writing grants and papers I eat loads (too much) of Haribos. It’s becoming a running joke in the lab and this sweet trend is now spreading dangerously to other team members.

Why did you choose to work in dementia?

Whilst working in the cancer field, I witnessed how epigenetic research transformed disease classification, detection, and treatment. There are now 7 epigenetic inhibitors being approved to treat patients with cancers.

There is an urgent unmet need in dementia research: lack of treatment. I envision that epigenetic research could improve our understanding of dementia as it did for cancer.

What single piece of advice would you give to an early career researcher?

Talk. Talk to your advisers and mentors: if they know what’s going on in your project and in your head they can help you. Have the difficult conversation rather than obsess over it on your own. Talk to your peers, friends and family about what you do, why you do it share your passion and challenges. Talk at conferences, present your work, go and talk to people at coffee break, poster sessions, etc… It seems daunting at first, but you’ll (almost) never regret having a conversation.

What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?

“Peter’s principle” by L. Peter. A fascinating read about success, hierarchy, and incompetence. I strongly recommend it.

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