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Chairs of excellence in biology-health: four laureates are alumni

28 4月 2024 职业类
Vue 253 次

As part of the France 2030 plan, the French government has just published the laureates of the call for project Chairs of excellence in biology-health. This mechanism funds a research team in France to attract the best researchers and improve the excellence of French research. The 22 world-class laureate researchers chosen to launch this programme include four international alumni!

There are no great discoveries without exceptional men and women”. With this affirmation, the minister in charge of research and the minister of health open the editorial jointly signed in the press release dedicated to the launch of the “Chaires d’excellence en biologie-santé” (Chairs of excellence in biology-health), which are new chairs aiming at supporting the works in France of highly talented women and men researchers. With a funding of 2 to 3 million euros each, these chairs contribute to leading new large scale projects over a 5-years duration.


Turn France into a leader country in health


The creation of these Chairs confirmed the ambition determined with the launch of the Plan Innovation Santé 2030 (Innovation in Health 2030 Plan), which is the health section of France 2030: turn France into a leader country in health.

According to the National Agency for Research (ANR in French), which leads the project for the French government, having a high level biomedical research is indeed “the first key step to foster the emergence of a high number of innovations in healthcare and, in the long term, to improve public health, reinforce our sovereignty and attract international investments and major industrials in health”. One of the keys to reach this goal, the agency says, is “the appeal and/or keeping on the national territory the best women and men world-class researchers of their field of expertise”. In total, about 40 to 50 chairs of excellence will be opened and funded for a total budget of 80M€ from the France 2030 programme.

Chairs of excellence are created to support iconic projects from the French biomedical research, and are attached to a lab. According to the ANR, they must also “be a lever to apply to major European calls for tenders”.


Four alumni laureates


As the ministers underline in their editorial, these Chairs are “open to women and men researchers who work abroad and also those who already work in a French institution”. Among the 22 laureates chosen by an international jury are four alumni who completed part of their training course in France. They are:

  • Renata Basto first completed undergraduate studies in genetics and microbiology at the University of Lisboa (Portugal). She then defended her thesis at the CNRS, in Gif-sur-Yvette. Thanks to a postdoctoral scholarship grant, she continued her career in Cambridge (United Kingdom). Today, she is deputy director to the Cancer and Cellular Biology unit at the Curie Institute, and specialised in “polyploidy and its role in the development of cancer”;
  • Yasmine Belkaid, holds a master’s degree in biochemistry from the Algerian university of sciences and technology Houari-Boumediene, and a DEA (equivalent to a Master of Advanced Studies) from the University of Paris-Sud. She passed a doctorate in immunology at the University of Paris-Sud and the Pasteur Institute, where she studied “the immunity answers innate to Leishmania infection”. Since 1st January 2024, she is general director of the Pasteur Institute in Paris;
  • Luis Quintana-Murci, completed the perfect international career, with studies in biology at the University of Barcelona (Spain), a doctorate in genetics of populations at the University of Pavia (Italy) and her authorisation to lead research at the Sorbonne University! Today, he is director of research at the Pasteur Institute, professor at the Collège de France and member of the Academy of sciences. His work focus on “the role of interactions between genes and environment on risks of diseases”;
  • Olaya Rendueles passed a Master’s degree in microbiology in Oviedo (Spain). For her doctorate, she then joined the laboratory of genetics of biofilms at the Pasteur Institute. A researcher in microbiology, she has been working since 2024 in Toulouse at the Centre of integrative biology and at the Laboratory of microbiology and molecular genetics. Her research focus on the “challenges and solutions in the fight against bacterial infection and resistance to antibiotics”.


Foreign researchers with “multinational” career 


Besides these four laureate alumni, most researchers chosen for the Chaires d’excellence en biologie-santé experienced a European and international career that may be qualified as “multinational”. Highlights on four of them: four researchers of foreign origin for whom France is a key home point, but who travelled throughout the world. They are:

  • Giacomo Cavalli studied biology at the university of Parma (Italy), then joined the University of sciences and technology of Zurich (Switzerland) for a doctorate course and to start a postdoc at the university of Heidelberg (Germany). In 1998, he joined the Institute of Human Genetics in Montpellier where he specialised in epigenetics;
  • Paolo Giacobini divided his doctoral and postdoctoral studies in neurosciences both at the university of Turin (Italy) and the National Institute of Health in Bethesda (USA), before settling down in France in 2009 to become a research at Inserm. Today, he is research director, and he is specialised is “fertility disorders” among women;
  • Roméo Ricci attended medicine studies at the university of Bern (Switzerland), then joined the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna (Austria). In 2010, his career then took him to the University hospital of Strasburg to work as University professor - hospital practitioner, where he now supervises a research team at the Institute of genetics and molecular and cellular biology;
  • Albert Weixlbaumer has a similar career as his previous counterpart, with studies in Vienna (Austria) leading to a doctorate in molecular biology and biophysics in Cambridge (United Kingdom), before setting down in Strasburg to become first researcher at the Institute of genetics and molecular and cellular biology. His research focus on “the mysteries of splicing: understanding the diversity of proteins to better fight diseases”.


From work to concrete prospects


Each of these winners illustrates, in their own sector, the ambition of a mechanism that offers new resources for developing research in France in areas with real prospects for the health of French people, particularly in the fields of epigenetics, genetics and neuroscience.

As the French National Research Agency points out, the work supported will, for example, help us to better understand:

  • the mechanisms involved in the main neurological disorders;
  • female fertility disorders;
  • the mechanisms of tumours, to fight them more effectively;
  • the balance with the bacteria present in the human body;
  • bacterial infections and the growing resistance to antibiotics.


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