Epigenesis: when something goes wrong

glatt book

Epigenesis is all over the news. On Monday I heard about it on NPR’s Morning Edition. that scientists are excited about epigenesis with a small letter e. It describes a way to turn off a gene that might trigger a disease. Susan Kay Murphy, of Duke University, is studying how a mother’s environmental exposures and nutrition during pregnancy may be causing epigenetic changes in babies.

If you were around Princeton 10 years ago, the word “Epigenesis,” with a big letter describing the company, will trigger different memories. It was a the name of a company founded by Jonathan Nyce to cure asthma.

And then you may remember Jonathan Nyce. Despite the best efforts of arguably the best criminal attorney in town, Robin Lord, he was convicted of murdering his Filipino wife who was having an affair. Judge Bill Matheisus sentenced him to”passion provocation murder,” eight years, eligible for parole in five. I covered the trial. The New York Times wrote about it. A tabloid writer published a book about it (shown above).

Meanwhile Epigenesis, the company, attracted the venture capital support of Jan Leschly of Care Capital. The company downsized to half its space and 10 employees, let go of its core technology and started working on a drug that could be brought to market faster. I lost track of the company. The firm is no longer in Care Capital’s portfolio and the website (www.epigene) is defunct.

In 2010, after five years, Nyce came out of prison and proceeded to publish his own book about the trial, to explain his claim to innocence. A person is innocent until proven guilty, and one doesn’t criticize a book unless one has read it. But let’s just say the reviews aren’t good.

The word epigenesis comes from the Greek epi (over, above, outer) and genetics. Epigenetics can be described as the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Growth disrupted, derailed.

That also describes Jonathan Nyce. Talent gone wrong.

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