Who am I? is a large, cooperative and multi-disciplinary research project focusing on the fundamental question of the basis of identity. It brings together scientists from different disciplines to explore the determinants of identity at various levels (chemical, molecular, cellular and social) and assess how they define what we are and who we become.
Understanding the determinants of identity represents a significant intellectual challenge with far-reaching consequences for both our fundamental understanding of living systems and our ability to intervene clinically to re-establish identity in pathological scenarios. The Life Sciences have witnessed a startling array of recent discoveries which challenge fundamental dogmas developed in the last century; we have gained fascinating new insights into genome organization and epigenetic regulation, the plasticity of cellular states and stem cell dynamics, and the impact of our environment. The 21st century will be characterized by a need to understand how genome and environment contribute to defining who we are, at the cellular and organism level; the fundamental question of Nature vs Nurture. The Exploring Identity Labex project hopes to create an inter-disciplinary intellectual environment to generate advances in knowledge and scientific progress in this fascinating field.
To address these major questions, a strong consortium has been built, including 27 research teams, comprising leading biologists, physicists, mathematicians and social scientists from CNRS, INSERM and from the Universities Paris Diderot and Paris Descartes, as well as a private company specialized in developing molecular combing tools for genome analysis. The ambition of Who am I? is to create an inter-disciplinary environment to feed innovative research, to catalyze the exchange of ideas and to offer inter-disciplinary training to young researchers.
This ambitious project co-coordinated by Catherine DARGEMONT (Institut Jacques Monod/Unit for Pathology and Molecular Virology) and Jonathan WEITZMAN (Epigenetics and Cell Fate) within the PRES Sorbonne Paris Cité, was one of 71 projects selected in the second call for Laboratoire d’Excellence launched by the French Government. Who am I? officially started on the 1rst of March 2012 and was granted 11 million over an 8-year period.