At the head of the Research Center since September 2019, Prof. Alain Puisieux wanted to highlight what he calls the “Curie spirit”. He is introducing an ambitious scientific program tied to the culture of Institut Curie and loyal to the “Curie spirit”.
Based on high-level basic research, it conveys a vision that is very much future-focused to confront the new scientific, technological and medical challenges.
How would you summarize the scientific policy that you wish to implement?
If I had to highlight one ambition, I would choose “moving from multi-disciplinarity to inter-disciplinarity”. My aim is to support its development, by consolidating interactions between scientific disciplines and strengthening ties between researchers and clinicians.
Various actions will be implemented for this purpose, particularly through the creation of mixed research units based on different disciplines, with the recruitment of young researchers at the interface of these disciplines. The development of these interfaces within each of the units is a key factor enabling researchers with different types of expertise to work together to address the same issue. I want to present this “working together” in a new light.
You joined the Research Center just about a year ago; what were your first impressions?
Having been a member of the Research Centre’s Scientific Commission since 2013, I already knew quite well how Institut Curie works and many of its scientific and medical leaders. This knowledge helped me as I took up the position, although my first year in Management was complicated by certain events that were difficult, and this health crisis has naturally been the most significant of those events.
And above all, I have had the pleasure of returning to the home of Marie Curie and its intellectual richness. It’s a very strong feeling, and one that drives us to excellence. When I talk about “excellence”, I am referring to the scientific quality of the work carried out by our researchers, but also to the philosophy of our research and our ethics. There has been a debate that has surprised me by its forcefulness and its recurrence, asking whether the Research Centre should remain a structure for basic research in life sciences or should evolve towards more “translational” research. I am convinced that in supporting this research we will be able to naturally develop effective translational research.
In your opinion how should interactions with the Hospital Group be created?
I share the view that the strength of the functional ties between the Research Centre and the Hospital Group will determine how Institut Curie will look in ten years. Today, translational research and clinical research can no longer be conceived of without each other. A significant number of teams at the Research Centre conduct their own projects from basic research to application. While many teams at the Research Centre are already carrying out their own work from the fundamental to the application level, I believe that we need to rethink our organization within the medical and scientific program in order to achieve an integrated vision and offer the tools needed to develop them, within the framework of a unique “one-stop” shop.
This is an important project, which of course involves the Research Center and the Hospital Group, but also certain Head Office departments. It will no doubt be a priority in the coming months since it is a deciding factor in responding to the notion of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
What are your current priorities?
Research has taught me that we can only have a real impact if we perfectly identify the questions asked, by determining the most appropriate strategies to answer them, and by avoiding spreading ourselves too thin. It is this mindset that helped me identify five priority actions for the coming months. I have already mentioned two of them: moving from multi-disciplinarity to inter-disciplinarity – which will be implemented with the unit directors within the context of preparation of the unit’s upcoming five-year contracts – and optimization of the link between translational research and clinical research, a project conducted closely with the Hospital Group management. The other high-priority issues are increasing our appeal, which takes on particular importance within a context where several of our scientific leaders will be taking well-earned retirement in the next five or six years; the establishment of our strategy in terms of technological developments, to ensure access for our researchers to advanced tools; and the strengthening of our health and safety policy and continuing our work involving the MC21 Institutional Project, to provide all our employees with optimum working conditions.
To conclude, which project in your program is particularly close to your heart?
Lastly, I have an assumed ambition, which is to organize an international Institut Curie symposium. I presented this ambition as soon as I arrived, with the aim of bringing together our entire community for a remarkable and engaging event. I am even more committed to it now, since it would signal an end to the health crisis and a return to normal activity, one that includes exchange and interaction.