IN MEMORIAM OF PAOLO SASSONE-CORSI (1956-2020)
July 29, 2020
Paolo Sassone-Corsi passed away during the night of July 22nd, at his home in Laguna Beach, California.
He was the Donald Bren Professor and the Director of the Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism that he created at the School of Medicine of the University of Irvine. He was a pioneer and a worldwide leading authority in the field of chronobiology and epigenetics.
Paolo Sassone-Corsi was born in 1956 and studied at the Università Federico II in Naples. In 1979, he moved as a postdoc to the laboratory of Pierre Chambon within the Faculty of Medicine of Strasbourg, Unit 184 of the Inserm, and Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire des Eucaryotes (LGME of the CNRS), together with his wife, the neurobiologist Emiliana Borrelli. Both moved again in 1986 for a second postdoc in the USA (Paolo went to the laboratory of Inder Verma in San Diego) and returned to Strasbourg in 1989, as group leaders. Paolo was then promoted Directeur de Recherche at the CNRS.
In 2006, he was recruited as the head of the Department of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine of the University of Irvine (California) where he created the Center of Epigenetics and Metabolism. In addition, he became an external scientific member of the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics, an associated member of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and a member of the Inserm International Unit ‘Epigenetic Control of neuronal plasticity’ directed by Emiliana Borrelli.
Paolo was awarded a large number of awards, including the EMBO Gold Medal and the Rosen FRM prize, the Grand Prix Liliane Bettencourt and the Silver Medal of the CNRS, to name just a few.
Throughout his career, Paolo Sassone-Corsi made seminal contributions in the fields of transcriptional regulation and epigenetics, with an original link with the circadian clock and metabolism. During his postdoc at the LGME, he was a major player of the extraordinary intellectual atmosphere that contributed to the discovery of transcriptional promoter and enhancer sequences. Upon returning to the IGBMC rom his Californian postdoc, his team dissected the cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian clock, an adaptive ancestral process allowing life on the Earth. This theme has remained his leitmotif in the past thirty years, leading him to demonstrate the molecular and epigenetic impact of the circadian rhythms on our everyday life, from metabolism to personalized medicine.
Paolo was driven by unlimited curiosity and enthusiasm. Beside writing scientific articles, he is the author of a book together with the Italian writer Erri De Luca, “a quest on the secrets of the human condition”. Together with his intuition and his ability to communicate, his intrinsic qualities made him a true all-round scientist.
Many members of the IGBMC have known and worked with Paolo. His death is a very sad event for the scientific community and we feel deeply sorry for Emiliana, who lost not only the companion of her life, but also a precious collaborator. May the life of Paolo inspire the young generation of scientists to explore the secrets of life and reach novel frontiers.