Agricultural engineer by training, I did my PhD (1994-97) in microbiology at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, in the lab of Dr. Alain Blanchard, which was part of the Research unit headed by Prof Luc Montagnier (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2008). My PhD thesis dealt with virulence mechanisms in several Mycoplasma species, including M. penetrans, which were thought at the time to facilitate HIV transmission. While this turned out to be not the case, I nevertheless acquired all my skills in microbiology in the Blanchard lab making it a priceless experience.
After my PhD, I became a post-doctoral fellow (1997-2000) in the lab of Prof Douglas B. Young at Imperial College, London, to study the intracellular trafficking and antigen presentation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected macrophages. This is where I became passionate about the interface between mycobacteria and the host immune system, a subject that would be my niche to carve in the years to come. Douglas’s inventiveness and limitless imagination were and still are a constant source of scientific inspiration.
Following a brief but insightful post-doctoral tenure (2000-01) in clinical microbiology in the lab of Prof Philippe Lagrange at the Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris, I joined the group of Prof Brigitte Gicquel at the Pasteur Institute where I continued my specialization in innate immunity to mycobacteria and mycobacterial virulence (2001-07). Brigitte provided me with a fantastic framework characterized by a dense network of colleagues around the world, ultimately enabling me to transition from a post-doctoral fellow into a CNRS Research Associate (2004) and earning the Berthe Péan award from National Academy of Sciences (2004). For this (and more), I shall remain most indebted to her.
Despite the growing pains that often plague nascent laboratories, my lab enjoyed early success in terms of scientific productivity and growth over the years (2007-2013). This is due in part to the local talent we enjoyed (reflected in the students and senior staff) and our capacity to recruit gifted fellows from abroad. Indeed, I am particularly proud of the multi-national and -cultural nature of my lab, as many of its members come from various European countries and as far as China, USA and Latin America. In my experience, this diversity in the lab personnel often leads to a synergistic exchange of ideas and expertise that enhances the quality of our research programs and publication output. Thanks to these variables and the nurturing environment at IPBS, my lab’s early progress was recognized through different awards in the form of a CNRS Bronze Medal (2009) and my transition into CNRS Research Director (2011).
Together with senior members with multiple expertise in diverse fields including biochemistry and molecular biology, glycobiology, genetics, microbiology, cell biology and immunology, my laboratory strives to achieve scientific excellence within the field of tuberculosis and pathogenic respiratory diseases. Our most recent and current efforts (2014-present) are devoted to the implementation of state-of-the-art technology and application, development of basic and applicable knowledge, and the mentoring of younger generation of scientists. Concerning the latter aspect, I take personal pride as a mentor in the formation of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, who come out of the laboratory with strong research productivity and are now building brilliant careers in the best labs in the world. Our pursuit of excellence is currently being fueled by recent national recognition such as “Coups d’élan pour la Recherche Française” Prize by the Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation, the Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award, and the labeling of our laboratory as an “FRM” (Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale) team. Last, but not least, is the lab’s participation in various local, regional and national committee activities, the life of the institute and university, and in the promotion of science among the general public.
Collectively, I firmly believe that the best years are yet to come for our laboratory as we move with confidence towards the future.