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Stéphane Pyronnet - Team Manager

Director of a research team in the Labex Toucan, Stéphane Pyronnet is also co-director of the CRCT. His team works on the mechanisms of cellular proliferation.

What is your team’s field of research?

We work on a phase of the cell duplication. Indeed, cancer is characterized by an anarchist proliferation of cells in contradiction with the role they were programed for. Our team is interested in one of the steps of this duplication. The idea is to “encircle” the cancerous cell so it cannot find the material to reproduce. In fact, to split in two, a cell must double its mass. Avoiding cells feeding blocks their duplication.

My role is to coordinate a team of about fifteen members (researchers, engineers, technicians and students).

How do you think you could reach that goal?

Thanks to drugs. Nowadays, most chemotherapy treatments target DNA, the heart of the cell, to destroy it. That leads to many damages. Our innovative research consists in taking action at a different step of the mechanism of DNA replication. This leads our research to be divided in two stages. The first one is pure research. We want to very precisely understand the mechanism of the splitting into two so we could identify its weak point. The second one is more empirical. It consists in testing molecules already available in the pharmaceutics industry.  It is a huge job as there are millions of them… The aim is to find the one which targets the weak point and to optimize it to be more efficient and less toxic for the patient.
   
What is your everyday life as a team manager?

My role is to coordinate a team of about fifteen members (researchers, engineers, technicians and students). It consists in defining the positioning of our researches, promoting our work, writing papers about it, and training new researchers. But my role is also to find money to pay these people and make the laboratory work. In fact, it is a bit like being the chairman of a small company.
   
With such a position, what is your opinion on the Labex Toucan?

This works very well. Thanks to it, we have a five year long visibility on the project and not only on six months. I can therefore take more time for research. On another hand, beyond the financial issues, the Labex allows different skills to coexist in the very same structure. For instance, until now we had developed our research on pancreas cancer. Nowadays, our research can be extended to other types of cancers, especially blood cancer. With the Labex and its network, numerous and varied skills work together to fight cancer more efficiently.
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