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Epigenetics - the Missing Link between Nature and Nurture

Tuesday 22 May 2012, 16.00 - 19.00, Lecture Theatre 2D1, Social Sciences Complex, Priory Road, BS8 1TN. Wine reception to follow.


Dr Nessa Carey, Author of The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance

Dr Nessa Carey will outline the main ideas of her recent book The Epigenetics Revolution, widely praised for its combination of accessibility and rigour. Previously at Imperial College, Dr Carey has worked in the biotech industry for a number of years. The book, and epigenetics generally, raise not only vital contemporary issues in biological and biomedical research, they also pose important general questions about causality, explanation, and prediction. The first discussant will be Professor George Davey Smith, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, at Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine, whose recent papers on the 'gloomy prospects' for the taming of chance within the new paradigms have themselves proved somewhat controversial.

There will be further opportunities for discussion over drinks after the event.


Despite the sometimes over-blown claims of genetic determinists, it's been clear to most scientists for decades that there must be more to biology than just the DNA code.  Otherwise how could we account for the differences between genetically identical cells or organisms?  Until fairly recently, the "explanation" was "it's the environment" but that wasn't really an explanation at all.  Epigenetics is finally unravelling the molecular changes that form the interface between genes and environment.  It's thereby providing a framework to understand processes as seemingly disparate as why identical twins may differ in their susceptibility to disorders such as schizophrenia, and why tortoiseshell cats are almost always female.


Nessa Carey has a degree in Immunology, a PhD in Virology and was a Senior Lecturer at Imperial College until 2001 when she left academia to work in the biotech sector.  After 10 years in biotech, 7 of which were spent in drug discovery in epigenetics, she joined Pfizer.  At Pfizer, her role involves finding biotech and academic collaborators for epigenetic drug discovery.  Nessa is the author of The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance, a popular science book published in 2011.

More information on Dr Carey can be found at her website.

All welcome. Please do come in good time to ensure a place.

For more information please contact ias-wun-intern@bris.ac.uk.

Download Nessa Carey lecture poster (1419 KB, PDF).

Nessa Carey Lecture Poster by Susan Jim