Dear colleagues:

It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of Paolo Sassone-Corsi, PhD, Director of the Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism, and Donald Bren Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry, at the UCI School of Medicine. Dr. Sassone-Corsi died July 22, 2020; he was 64.  Our hearts go out to his wife, Emiliana Borrelli, PhD, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, also in the School of Medicine, and to all those who had the good fortune to know him.

Dr. Sassone-Corsi received his PhD from the International Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, CNR, Naples, Italy, in 1979. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Pierre Chambon at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Strasbourg, France, and continued there as a research fellow for many years.

From 1986 to 1989, Dr. Sassone-Corsi served as a visiting researcher at the Salk Institute.  In 1990, he returned to France where he rose to Directeur de Recherche at the CNRS. He stayed in that role until 2006, when he joined UCI as a Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, and relocated to the US.

Dr. Thomas C. Cesario, dean of the school of medicine at the time, stated, “Dr. Sassone-Corsi is one of the outstanding molecular biologists of our generation. He will increase the stature of pharmacological research at UCI and aid the university in its efforts to increase research directed toward new drug discovery,” and indeed he did.

A pioneer in our understanding of how circadian rhythms control gene expression through epigenetic regulation, Dr. Sassone-Corsi is internationally known for his work in transcriptional regulatory circuits and in particular for discoveries that link metabolism with epigenetic mechanisms of generating and controlling circadian rhythms. Since he has been on the UCI campus, he has propelled UCI into the international arena of leaders in this research.

In 2011, Dr. Sassone-Corsi founded and was appointed Director of the Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism.  That same year he joined the Department of Biological Chemistry and was appointed a Donald Bren Professor.

Research conducted in the Sassone-Corsi Laboratory has significantly impacted the fields of circadian biology, epigenetics, metabolism and endocrinology. The high impact of his team’s research is witnessed by the numerous high-profile publications (h-index 127), invitations as plenary speaker at high-profile conferences, and a long list of international, prestigious scientific awards.

Some of Dr. Sassone-Corsi’s most notable research has revealed how nutritional challenges reprogram circadian homeostasis and revealed previously unforeseen pathways of circadian control that connect to nutrition, cancer and aging. These studies provide new leads towards therapeutic strategies for metabolic disorders. Extremely productive, Dr. Sassone-Corsi published more than 450 peer-reviewed articles over the course of his tenure.

He was truly a global citizen as reflected in membership on many editorial boards in the US and Europe. Dr. Sassone-Corsi was also the recipient of numerous honors and awards. Among these, he was an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received the UCI Distinguished Faculty Award for Research in 2018. International awards, included the EMBO Gold Medal, the CNRS Silver Medal of France, and the Leonardo da Vinci Gold Medal of Italy.

Dr. Sassone-Corsi was an exceptional colleague, mentor, and scientist, and will be greatly missed.

Farewell, Paolo.  It was an honor to call you a friend.
Michael J. Stamos, MD
Dean, UCI School of Medicine
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