The Who am I? project brings together biologists, physicists, mathematicians and social scientists to address a fundamental question: what is the basis of identity? Together, the partner teams will explore (at the chemical, molecular, cellular and social levels) the determinants of identity, how they define what we are and who we become.
Understanding the determinants of identity (and the consequences of loss/modifications 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.
New discoveries will come from bringing together minds from different disciplines and perspectives, thus catalyzing the cross-fertilization of ideas. The Who am I?-exploring Identity project ambitions to create an inter-disciplinary intellectual environment to generate advances in knowledge and scientific progress in this fascinating field. The project is built around five central thematic axes:
The project is built around five central thematic axes:
- the maintenance and integrity of molecular and cellular identities
- the establishment and transmission of identity to subsequent generations
- evolution in terms of cumulative changes in identity over time and through populations
- the impact of environment (at the chemical and cellular level) on defining identities
- the pathological consequences of deregulation of these mechanisms (loss of identity)