Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction

Reader in Stem Cell Biology



+44 (0)20 7594 1915v.azuara




1009Institute of Reproductive and Developmental BiologyHammersmith Campus




Epigenetics and Development Group

We are interested in understanding how cell potency and differentiation are critically balanced in stem cells and in the developing embryo. In the context of the early mammalian embryo this implies unravelling how cell heterogeneity arises, and how pluripotency is achieved and safeguarded while promoting the formation of two essential extra-embryonic tissues.

 Our group studies epigenetic, transcriptional and metabolic mechanisms that underlie pluripotency and lineage choice. Currently, the core research activities of the group include the following inter-related studies:

  • Polycomb group members in stem cells and in the early embryo
  • Jmjd2 gene family in early cell fate decisions
  • Pluripotency and reprogramming
  • Esrrb and co-regulators in embryonic stem cells
  • Metabolic switches in pluripotent stem cells and in development 

Selected publications

Tomaz RA, Harman JL, Karimlou D, Weavers L, Fritsch L, Bou-Kheir T, Bell E, Del Valle Torres I, Niakan KK, Fisher C, Joshi O, Stunnenberg HG, Curry E, Ait-Si-Ali S, Jørgensen HF, Azuara V: Jmjd2c facilitates the assembly of essential enhancer-protein complexes at the onset of embryonic stem cell differentiation. Development 2017 Feb 15;144(4):567-579.

Percharde M, Lavial F, Ng JH, Kumar V, Tomaz RA, Martin N, Yeo JC, Gil J, Prabhakar S, Ng HH, Parker MG, Azuara V: Ncoa3 functions as an essential Esrrb co-activator to sustain embryonic stem cell self-renewal and reprogramming. Genes & Development 2012 Oct 15; 26(20):2286-98.

Lavial F, Bessonnard S, Ohnishi Y, Tsumura A, Chandrashekran A, Fenwick MA, Tomaz RA, Hosokawa H, Nakayama T, Chambers I, Hiiragi T, Chazaud C, Azuara V: Bmi1 facilitates primitive endoderm formation by stabilizing Gata6 during early mouse development. Genes & Development 2012 Jul 1; 26(13):1445-58.

Alder O, Lavial F, Helness A, Brookes E, Pinho S, Chandrashekran A, Arnaud P, Pombo A, O'Neill L, Azuara V: Ring1B and Suv39h1 delineate distinct chromatin states at bivalent genes during early mouse lineage commitment. Development 2010 Aug 1; 137(15):2483-92.

Azuara V:  Profiling of DNA replication timing in unsynchronized cell populations. Nature Protocols 2006; 1(4): 2171-7.

Azuara V, Perry P, Sauer S, Spivakov M, Jørgensen HF, John RM, Gouti M, Casanova M, Warnes G, Merkenschlager M, Fisher AG: Chromatin signatures of pluripotent cell lines. Nature Cell Biology 2006 May; 8(5):532-8.

Azuara V, Brown KE, Williams RR, Webb N, Dillon D, Festenstein R, Buckle V, Merkenschlager M, Fisher AG: Heritable gene silencing in lymphocytes delays chromatid resolution without affecting the timing of DNA replication. Nature Cell Biology 2003 Jul; 5(7): 668-74.


  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Genesis Research Trust (GRT)
  • Foundation for Sciences and Technology (FCT- Portugal)
  • Associated Member of the EuroSyStem Project coordinated by Professor Austin Smith (2nd Call 2010) European Federation for Systematic Stem Cell Biology funded by EU Framework 7

Group Members

  • Véronique Azuara (Team Leader)
  • Emma Bell (MRC-funded)
  • Donja Karimlou (IC President’s PhD scholar)
  • King Hang (Tommy) Mau (GRT-funded)

We are currently inviting applications from hard-working, highly motivated postdoctoral and PhD candidates with a genuine interest in the fundamental biology of stem cells.


  • Olivia Alder (Terry Fox Laboratory, Vancouver-Canada)
  • Matias Autio (Genome Institute of Singapore, Singapore)
  • David Barneda (Babraham Institute, Cambridge-UK)
  • Tony Bou-Kheir (Barts Cancer Institute, London-UK)
  • Anne Helness (McGill University IRCM, Montreal-Canada)
  • Fabrice Lavial (Cancer Research Centre of Lyon CRCL, Lyon-France)
  • Michelle Percharde (UCSF School of Medicine, San Francisco-USA)
  • Sandra Pinho (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York-USA)
  • Rute Tomaz (University of Cambridge, Cambridge-UK)
  • Several talented MSc/MRes students


Professor Mauricio Barahona, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Imperial College London, Biomathematics

Professor Paul French, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Photonics, Imperial College London, Imaging

Dr Hector Keun, Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, Metabolism

Professor Henk Stunnenberg, Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, Nijmegen, Gene regulation

Professor Jesus Gil, MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, Imperial College London, Gene regulation

Dr Helle Jorgensen, Cardiovascular Medicine Division, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Epigenetics

Dr Slimane Ait-Si-Ali, Epigenetic and Cell Fate UMR 7216 CNRS, University Paris Diderot, Epigenetics

Professor Shankar Srinivas, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Developmental Biology

Dr Kathy Niakan, The Francis Crick Institute, London, Embryonic stem cells

Professor Ian Chambers, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine University of Edinburgh, Embryonic stem cells

Professor Huck-Hui Ng, Genome Institute of SingaporeSingapore, Embryonic stem cells

Dr Mark Christian, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Metabolism

Professor Malcolm Parker, Imperial College LondonInstitute of Reproductive & Developmental BiologyLondon, UK, Gene regulation

Dr Takashi hiiragi, European Molecular Biology LaboratoryHeidelberg, Germany, Developmental Biology

Dr Ed Curry, Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, Bioinformatics

Dr Claire Chazaud, Laboratoire GReDUMR CNRS 6293/INSERM U1103Clermont Université, France, Developmental biology

Guest Lectures

BCGB, Institute of Biomedical Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, 2017

Wellcome Trust - MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, Anne McLaren Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, 2017

IMT, Philipps-University Marburg, Marburg, Germany, 2016

Pasteur Institute, Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Paris, France, 2016

Blizard Institute, QMUL, ‘London Epigenomics Club’, London, UK, 2015

STEMBRYO Symposium, Sitges, Spain, 2015

ISRMN Meeting, Imperial College London, London, UK, 2014

GReD, University of Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France, 2013

London Research Institute ‘Stem Cell Club’, London, UK, 2013

BACR meeting ‘Chasing Cancer Stem-like Cells’, Harrogate, UK, 2012

Wellcome Trust/ CRUK Gordon Institute 'Developmental Biology Seminars', Cambridge, UK, 2012

University Paris Diderot, Epigenetics and Cell Fate Unit, Paris, France, 2012

Abcam meeting ‘Epigenetics and Stem Cells’, Cambridge, UK, 2012

Euroscicon Meeting ‘Induced pluripotent stem cells: production and utility in regenerative medicine’, London, UK, 2011

Rescues Conference on ‘What is new in Europe in the field of regenerative medicine?’, Oxford, UK, 2010

ESTOOLS Symposium, Lisbon, Portugal, 2010

Institute Necker, INSERM Unit U768, Paris, France, 2010

STEMBRYO meeting ‘From oocyte to embryo: a workshop on early mammalian embryogenesis’, Oxford, UK, 2009

Institute of Molecular Genetics, Montpellier, France, 2009

INSERM workshop on ‘human ESCs: characterisation and manipulations’, Saint-Raphael, France, 2009

Department of Physiology, Development & Neuroscience, Cambridge, UK, 2008

Institute for Stem Cell Research, Edinburgh, UK, 2008

North East England Stem Cell Institute, Newcastle, UK, 2008

Department of Surgery and Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Cambridge, UK, 2007

Immunology Centre Marseille-Luminy, Marseille, France, 2007

Joint meeting: Imperial & Genome Institute of Singapore, London, UK, 2007

Joint CSC/IRDB workshop on ‘Stem cell identity and plasticity’, London, UK, 2006

Research Student Supervision

Alder,OA, PhD project entitled " Epigenetic regulation of key developmental genes during early mouse development" - completion in Oct 2009

Autio,MI, PhD project entitled " Investigating the regulation of distinct epigenetic states in human embryonic stem cells" - completion in Feb 2013

Donja Karimlou,, PhD project entitled "Investigating the role of the lipid droplet associated protein CIDEA in embryonic stem cell metabolism and biology" - ongoing

Emma Bell,, PhD project entitled "Investigating the specific chromatin function of Esrrb and co-regulators at tissue-specific enhancers in pluripotent stem cells" - ongoing

Helness,AC, PhD project entitled " Balancing potency and differentiation in mouse embryo-derived stem cells and in vivo" - completion in Dec 2011

King Mau,H, PhD project entitled "Trafficking, storage and timely release of lipids: unfolding the fundamental mechanisms underlying metabolic reprogramming in pluripotent stem cells" - ongoing

Percharde,M, PhD project entitled " Regulation of nuclear receptor Esrrb function by Ncoa3 in mouse embryonic stem cell pluripotency" - completion in Nov 2012

Pinho,S, PhD project entitled " Regulation of pluripotent states in human embryonic stem cells" -completion in Dec 2009

Tomaz,R, PhD project entitled " Investigating the role of the histone demethylase Jmjd2c as a key regulator of mouse embryonic stem cells" - completion in Nov 2016