Azim Surani discovered genomic imprinting in 1984, and subsequently examined its mechanism and the functions of imprinted genes. He later established the genetic basis for mouse primordial germ cell (PGC) specification, using a single cell transcriptome approach. This genetic network also initiates the unique resetting of the germline epigenome, including comprehensive erasure of DNA methylation towards re-establishing full genomic potency. Epigenetic modifications and re-establishments of imprints then generate functional differences between parental genomes whilst aberrant imprints contribute to human disease.
He is currently identifying key regulators of human germline fate and epigenome reprogramming, revealing differences between humans and mice attributable to their divergent pluripotent states and early postimplantation development. He is also investigating transposable elements, host defence mechanisms, noncoding RNAs, and the potential for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in mammals.
Azim received his PhD in 1975 at the University of Cambridge under Sir Robert Edwards FRS, a 2010 Nobel laureate. He has been Marshall–Walton Professor at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute since 1992, and Director of Germline and Epigenomics Research since 2013.
In recognition of his discovery of mammalian genomic imprinting, revealing the expression of certain autosomal genes according to the parent of origin. Genomic imprinting has major implications for human genetics and the inheritance patterns of human dis
For his pivotal contributions to the understanding of early mammalian development.