130 pages

Date published 
February 2008

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Epigenetics Overview


Report CoverEpigenetics: Technologies, Applications, and the Commercial Landscape

Author: Leslie A. Pray, PhD




Epigenetics is one of the fastest-growing areas of the biological sciences. It’s also a budding industry. This new report offers in-depth analysis of:

  • The definition, history, and current status of epigenetics
  • Current and potential commercial applications
  • An epigenetic approach to cancer etiology
  • The epigenetics of noncancerous diseases
  • DNA methylation and histone modifications as biomarkers
  • The companies involved and their products
  • Epigenetic therapeutics: demethylating agents, histone modifications, and combinations
  • The drivers of the epigenetics industry, plus recent major industry deals and patent applications
  • Results of a quantitative online survey of individuals involved in epigenetics R&D

Epigenetics: Technologies, Applications, and the Commercial Landscape provides an overview of the scientific and technological landscape from which both the diagnostic and therapeutic sectors of the nascent “epigenetics industry” are emerging, plus a qualitative analysis of the scientific, technological, and commercial achievements and challenges facing both sectors.

The number of peer-reviewed research articles being published on epigenetics is increasing practically exponentially.


Biologists are recognizing that to understand human health and disease, they need to know more than the DNA sequence of any genes. Equally, if not more important, they need to know how cells use the information encoded in the genome. That information is essentially stagnant if a gene lies dormant. What turns genes on and off, and under what circumstances? That is what epigenetics is all about: how genomic information encoded in the DNA sequence is regulated by various nonDNA factors. The science and technology of epigenetics are aimed at understanding and, ultimately, manipulating the various chemical and physical chromatin modifications that control gene expression.

This report focuses on the 2 major types of epigenetic control factors:

  • DNA methylation patterns formed by the presence of methyl molecules (-CH3) attached to CpG dinucleotides along the entire length of the DNA double helix
  • Various covalent modifications to the histone proteins around which the DNA helix is wound

Epigenetics: Technologies, Applications, and the Commercial Landscape is a valuable tool for anyone involved in epigenetics R&D, portfolio management, and commercialization of diagnostics and therapeutics.

About the Author:Leslie A. Pray, PhD, is a science writer and consultant to the Forum on Microbial Threats at the National Academy of Sciences. She has written extensively on a range of genetic, biotechnology, infectious disease, public health policy, and higher education issues for The Scientist, Genomics and Proteomics, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Orion, the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the CBR Institute for Biomedical Research, among others. Dr. Pray received her PhD in population genetics from the University of Vermont and her BA degree from the University of California, Berkeley. An elected member of Sigma Xi, she has been the recipient of numerous scientific research awards, including an American Society of Naturalists Young Investigator Award and a National Science Foundation Environmental Biology Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Pray can be reached at lpray@nasw.org.