Despite the past century witnessing considerable advances in our understanding of genetics of complex traits, the success of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in detecting putative causal variants has been limited as the effects found have been modest. Epigenetics promises a novel biological framework of looking at common diseases, because it can respond to genetic and environmental effects, and impact and gene expression – thus potentially mediating a path from environmental effects to gene expression to behavior. The primary objective of the “EpiTrain” Research Training Network is to promote integrative training-through-research in the field of epigenetics, especially of young researchers, both pre- and post-doctoral level, within the frame of high quality international collaborations. By integrating academic and private institutions with specializations in technological, analytical and computational aspects of epigenetic research, the training program will not only provide insights into research techniques and paradigms complementary to the individual projects, but will also strengthen professional skills and enhance the career prospects of the fellows.

Main Objectives: The scope of EpiTrain is to develop a broad scale understanding of epigenetic processes in common disease. The goal of the proposed network is to provide open training facilities for the next generation of researchers in the field of medical epigenetic research across a wide spectrum of research and develop synergies between the different research disciplines. The proposed network will also develop an open-access data management strategy to enable data storage and dissemination. The EpiTrain training program will increase the international competitiveness of European research in Epigenetics. We will integrate epidemiological, genetic and molecular techniques to study the molecular consequences of the gene-environment interactions on a large scale across a range of common diseases. Our efforts will focus on the following broad thematic areas:

  1. A Systems Biology Approach: Integrating epigenetic and genetic whole genome information to understand the aetiology of common diseases.
  2. Epigenetic Epidemiology: The use of disease-discordant identical twins as a tool for evaluating the influence of epigenetics on common disease phenotypes.
  3. Epigenetic Technologies: Development and application of novel biological assays to characterize the epigenome
  4. Computational Epigenomics: Development of novel analytical approaches to quantify and analyze epigenetic variation.

To address these aims the EpiTrain ITN has assembled a group of world leading scientists with cross-disciplinary expertise and research capabilities. The group integrates academic and private institutions with specializations in technological, analytical and computational aspects of genetic epidemiology and epigenetics. By promoting integrative training-through-research programs EpiTrain will offer both pre- and post-doctoral training within the multidisciplinary framework of leading international collaborations and cutting-edge methodologies.

Integration with SMEs: EpiTrain recognizes the importance and value of integrated training involving both academic and industrial settings and offers the exciting opportunity for trainees to experience and benefit from cutting-edge research in both. The integrated academic-industrial nature of the EpiTrain will enable trainees to conduct highly competitive research, using the latest technologies that would not be possible otherwise. The experience of both academic and industrial research settings will provide the students with a more balanced career prospective. To achieve this balance, the two participating SMEs (Diagenode and TATAA) will be fully integrated into the training program and will be joined by large Pharma partner Pfizer (Cambridge, UK), who can offer pharmaceutical development in a range of diseases.

Early Stage Researchers (PhD posts) and Experienced Researchers (post-doc posts)
There are 10 PhD posts and 6 ER posts in total, to begin between March and October 2013. Please be aware that some of the posts have a joint involvement between two partners. All the posts include travel to another institution for a secondment, of between two and six months.

There are strict eligibility criteria imposed in Marie-Curie projects – for details please consult http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/mariecurieactions/itn_en.html

Posts will be available at the following institutions:
(For a preliminary enquiry please contact the relevant person named below)

King’s College London, Department of Twin Research
2 PhD posts and 1 post-doc post, and Institute of Psychiatry – 1 PhD post
PI/Supervisors Professor Tim Spector, Dr Jordana Bell
PI/Supervisor Professor Jonathan Mill
Contact Jonathan Mill for information on the IoP post
Contact Dr Jordana Bell for information on all other posts

University College London, UCL Cancer Institute
1 PhD post, and 1 post-doc post
PI/supervisor – Professor Stephan Beck
Contact s.beck@ucl.ac.uk

University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Hjelt Institute, FINLAND
3 PhD posts
PI/Supervisors Professor Jaakko Kaprio, Dr Miina Ollikainen
Contact miina.ollikainen@helsinki.fi

Fundacio Institut d’Investigacio Biomedica de Bellvitge, Barcelona, SPAIN
2 PhD posts and 1 post-doc post
PI/Supervisor Professor Manell Esteller
Contact Helena Diaz hdiaz@idibell.cat

1 PhD post and 1 post-doc post
PI /Supervisors – Dr Mikael Kubista and Dr Robert Sjoback
Contact Mikael.kubista@tataa.com

Diagenode, BELGIUM
2 post-doc posts
PI /Supervisor Dr Helene Pendeville
Contact helene.pendevill@diagenode.com

The programme will include secondments at one of the following Associate Partners:

  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA (Professor Andy Feinberg)
  • ALSPAC, University of Bristol, UK (Professor Debbie Lawlor)
  • Free University Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS (Professor Doret Boomsma)
  • Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, AUSTRALIA (Professor Jeff Craig)
  • PFIZER, UK (Dr Nessa Carey)


Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN)