Epigenomics, RNA and Gene Regulation Program



Kathrin Plath, PhD

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Hanna Mikkola, MD, PhD

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The Epigenomics, RNA & Gene Regulation (ERGR) research program promotes UCLA’s outstanding gene regulation researchers to apply their expertise to the cancer problem. It is expected that ERGR insights into the regulatory mechanisms governing the basic molecular and cellular biology of cancer will reveal cancer vulnerabilities that can be targeted by novel strategies to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment. ERGR research program investigators employ diverse model systems to elucidate fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation, from chromatin and transcription to RNA biology, and their alterations in cancer. Program studies extend to regulation of physiological processes that contribute to cancer pathogenesis including cell fate changes, inflammation and metabolism.

The ERGR research program leads in development of new technologies and methodologies including cutting-edge informatics to meet the demands of today’s high-throughput experimental tools and provide expertise to researchers in other UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center research programs. In addition to focusing on mechanisms underlying fundamental epigenomics and gene regulatory processes, the ERGR research program strives to translate their discoveries to pre-clinical and clinical applications. The ERGR membership is drawn from four UCLA schools and partner institution Caltech, representing 12 departments, and thus serves as the intellectual home for researchers with interests broadly related to gene regulation.

The ERGR research program consciously cultivates a collegial environment and many opportunities for exchange of ideas, research findings and scientific discussions among the faculty, senior research fellows, postdocs, students, and clinicians. Such interactions lead to establishment of valuable and fruitful collaborations that raise the quality of ERGR research program science all while inspiring interest in and applications to cancer-related problems. To prepare for future challenges, the ERGR research program anticipates, identifies and recruits new young and established researchers with great potential or outstanding record of accomplishment whose expertise align with program goals and complement ongoing efforts by program faculty.


The primary goal of the ERGR research program is to bring together the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s critical mass of outstanding gene regulation, epigenomics, RNA biology and bioinformatic researchers to apply their expertise to the cancer problem using modern genomic, proteomic, functional and computational approaches, including cutting-edge single cell technologies. The ERGR research program’s overall guiding principle is to foster the discovery of regulatory mechanisms that control fundamental biological processes whose alterations may contribute to cancer development and progression, with the ultimate goal of helping to defeat cancer.

To achieve its objective, the ERGR research program has three specific aims to:

  1. Employ diverse model systems including cancer cells and tissues to elucidate fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation, RNA processing, and epigenetics and how these mechanisms are altered in cancer
  2. Study the molecular regulation of physiological processes that contribute to cancer pathogenesis including metabolism, inflammation and cell proliferation vs. differentiation
  3. Facilitate the transition of acquired knowledge of gene regulation into clinical applications

Meetings and seminars

  • Participation in the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center seminar series that features invited outside and local faculty
  • Weekly journal club and data presentation meetings where different UCLA ERGR labs present recent results or published papers
  • UCLA “Leaders in the Field” seminar series where an invited external speaker meets UCLA’s ERGR program researchers and gives an afternoon presentation followed by an open reception
  • Annual research program summer barbeque


Director Kathrin Plath is a Professor of Biological Chemistry. She earned her doctorate degree in cell biology from Humboldt University in Berlin (Germany), performed her postdoctoral studies at UCSF and the Whitehead Institute at MIT, and then joined the faculty at the University of California Los Angeles. Plath's lab uses differentiation and reprogramming processes from and to the pluripotent state as powerful in vitro models for studying the gene-regulatory mechanisms underlying cell fate changes and cellular specification with a particular emphasis on enhancer selection, genome organization, and the role of long-noncoding RNAs. Many of the processes she studies are deregulated in cancers. She serves on the editorial board of Cell, Science, and other journals, has been a Director of the International Society of Stem Cell Research, and is a HHMI Faculty Scholar.

Co-director Dr. Hanna Mikkola is Professor of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. Mikkola became interested in hematology and blood cell development during medical school and did her graduate thesis on defining genetic defects in a congenital bleeding disorder, Factor XIII deficiency. She received MD and PhD degrees in 1997 from the University of Helsinki, Finland, and her interest in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) biology started during her post-doctoral training in Lund University, Sweden (1998–2000), where she developed lentiviral gene transfer tools to manipulate stem cells. In 2000, Mikkola joined the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, where she focused on hematopoietic transcription factors, defining mouse HSC development through identifying markers for nascent HSCs, and describing the placenta as a niche for developing HSCs. In 2005, she joined UCLA, where her lab is focused closely on human HSC self-renewal mechanisms and understanding how these mechanisms become imbalanced during HSC culture expansion or in leukemias. Mikkola is the recipient of the Martha Austin Research Award from the Stop Cancer Foundation, and Junior Faculty Scholar awards from the American Society of Hematology and V foundation for Cancer Research, the Scholar Award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the prestigious McCulloch and Till award from the International Society for Experimental Hematology.

Upcoming events

The following list is for upcoming events and seminars of notable interest to the Epigenomics, RNA and Gene Regulation Program and its members. This calendar is updated automatically.

For a list of all upcoming Cancer Center events please visit our Events Calendar.

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Annual All Center Retreat

Banner for the 2023 UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Annual RetreatWe are excited to announce the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Annual All Center Retreat! The all-day event will take place at the Luskin Conference Center on May 2, 2023.

The keynote speaker for the Retreat is Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Additional activities include scientific talks, educational sessions, networking, poster exhibits and more. Further details will be announced soon.

Registration is required and now open! Please visit our registration page to reserve your ticket now—space is limited. And please share this with your UCLA colleagues who you believe would be interested. We look forward to seeing you at the Retreat!

Call for Posters The Cancer Center would like to invite graduate students and postdoctoral research and clinical fellows to submit an abstract for consideration for a poster display at the Retreat. This is a great opportunity for trainees to share their cancer-focused research projects and network with colleagues. Prizes in each category will be awarded.

The deadline for poster abstract submission is March 17. As there are a limited number of slots for posters, those whose poster are selected for display at the Retreat will be notified by March 28 of acceptance. For more information and instructions on how to submit, please visit the Call for Posters page.

All attendees are subject to Los Angeles County Health Department and UCLA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols. For all the current campus COVID-19 guidelines, please visit UCLA's COVID-19 website.

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