Epigenomics, RNA and Gene Regulation


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 Health 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 Health 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

The Epigenomics, RNA and Gene Regulation Program participates in a variety of recurring seminars, meetings and events. Please see Upcoming Events below for a complete list of all currently scheduled ERGR-related activities.

  • The ERGR Journal Club hosts different ERGR labs who present exciting published papers. Meets every Friday at noon, with lunch served. For more information on attending or presenting a paper, please contact Kathrin Plath via email.
  • Riboforum is a forum for ERGR labs with interests in RNA biology and features data presentations from ERGR labs and other interested laboratories. Meets the second Wednesday of every month at 3:30pm in Boyer 159. For more information, please contact Dr. Elsie Jacobson via email.
  • The ERGR data club hosts different ERGR labs to present their work. Please contact Kathrin Plath via email.
  • Participation in the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Thursday Seminar Series. Held virtually, the Series features invited UCLA and outside faculty.
  • Leaders in the Field seminar series where an invited external speaker meets with ERGR program researchers and gives an afternoon presentation followed by an open reception. Please contact Kathrin Plath via email if you are interested in hosting a ERGR leader.


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

Below is a list of upcoming events of interest to the Epigenomics, RNA and Gene Regulation Research Program and its members. This calendar is updated automatically.

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

Upcoming Events


ACCC AACI Discussion: Presidents Theme

June 18, 2024 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM