“Awarding the Inserm Prizes is a key point in the Institute’s life, enabling us to showcase the various talents of our staff and the great wealth of the research we conduct to form a common front for the health of our fellow citizens. But it is also an opportunity to emphasize our involvement at the heart of society, our commitment to scientific research that is effective, ethical and accessible to as many people as possible,” states Inserm CEO, Gilles Bloch.
This year, the Inserm Prizes are awarded to five individuals whose results and commitment to high-quality research demonstrate scientific excellence and the Institute’s central place in society. The Inserm 2022 Grand Prize goes to Olivier Delattre, an oncopediatrician whose work has led to major discoveries in childhood cancers.
Olivier Delattre, Inserm Grand Prize
Olivier Delattre © Inserm/François Guénet
“Once a pediatrician, always a pediatrician,” may well be the expression that best describes Olivier Delattre’s commitment. Director of the Cancer, heterogeneity, instability and plasticity unit (unit 830 Inserm/Institut Curie), this researcher began his career by studying medicine, during which he developed an interest in pediatrics. His time with the Pediatric oncology department of Institut Curie in Paris encouraged him to specialize in childhood cancers and study biology alongside his work as a doctor.
In the early 1990s, he decided to focus entirely on research with the aim of improving the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cancers – so he joined Inserm. In 1992, he was involved in a world first when his team identified and characterized the genes responsible for Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer that occurs in children. This was followed by a series of discoveries with significant advances in the understanding of rhabdoid tumors, which are rare and very aggressive cancers.
In 2018, which represents another key step in his career, he founded the SIREDO center (for Care, innovation & research in childhood, adolescent & young-adult oncology) at Institut Curie in Paris, which he has been leading ever since. An initiative that brought together within the same place healthcare and research teams dedicated to solid tumors affecting the under-25s. In this pioneering center, the aim is to collaborate more effectively and ensure that basic research can quickly benefit patients.
It is this desire to always go further to serve the health of young patients and their families, by continuing to work tirelessly to better understand and treat their diseases, which has earned Delattre the Inserm Grand Prize.
Valérie Gabelica, Research Prize
Valérie Gabelica © Inserm/François Guénet
Mass spectrometry, an analytical chemistry tool more than a century old, has been given a new lease of life thanks to work by Valérie Gabelica and her team.
A researcher at ARNA (unit 1212 Inserm/CNRS/Université de Bordeaux), this chemist has developed with her colleagues an innovative method that combines mass spectrometry and circularly polarized light to improve the study of the structure of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and how they interact with other molecules. It is understanding these interactions that will help research to discover new medicines, for example.
A long-term endeavor, which offers biomedical research valuable new tools and demonstrates the importance and excellence of the interdisciplinary research conducted at Inserm.
Valérie Crépel, Innovation Prize
Valérie Crépel © Inserm/François Guénet
Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common form of epilepsy in adults. In 2005, Valérie Crépel, Inserm research director at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology in Marseille, showed that kainate receptors of glutamate, a key neurotransmitter of the nervous system, were involved. Shortly afterwards, her colleague Christophe Mulle discovered that these receptors are a key element in the origin of this epilepsy in the hippocampus and a potential therapeutic target.
With the support of Inserm Transfert, Inserm’s subsidiary for tech transfer, the scientists filed a first patent in 2013. The project continued to develop, resulting in the creation of Corlieve Therapeutics in 2019. This start-up then became a subsidiary of Dutch biotech uniQure in 2021. The years of research in epilepsy and the efforts to create value have paid off in leading to the clinical trial of a treatment in patients.
Justine Bertrand-Michel, Research Support Prize
Justine Bertrand-Michel © Inserm/François Guénet
Trained chemist Justine Bertrand-Michel has dedicated her entire career to supporting researchers. Since 2021, she has masterfully led the MetaToul platform, the largest in France, with 6 teams, 40 engineers, 23 analysis systems and 4 robots.
This metabolomics platform analyzes metabolites, the compounds derived from the metabolism of all living things: glucose, amino acids, nucleotides, etc.
This work is her passion and requires a thorough understanding of the challenges faced in order to offer services, develop methods and train new staff – while keeping the budget balanced.
Priscille Rivière, Opecst-Science and Society Prize
Priscille Rivière © Inserm/François Guénet
Deputy director of the Inserm Scientific information and communication department, Priscille Rivière works to ensure the clear, transparent and rigorous dissemination of science to the general public.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an increase in health misinformation.
The initiatives set up by Rivière with the communications team – from the Canal Détox series to the development of the Cellule Riposte network of researchers to answer media questions – now enable Inserm to play a role in the more global fight against fake news. And build a trust-based dialogue between scientists and citizens, to improve the health of all.
The Inserm Prizes
The Grand Prize pays tribute to a French scientific research player whose work has led to remarkable progress in our knowledge of human physiology, treatment and health research more generally.
The Research Prize honors a researcher, lecturer-researcher or clinician-researcher whose work has particularly marked the fields of basic research, clinical and therapeutic research, and public health research.
The Innovation Prize is awarded to a researcher whose work has been the subject of entrepreneurial value creation.
The Research Support Prize is awarded to an engineer, technician or administrative worker for significant achievements in the support of research.
Finally, the Opecst-Science and Society Prize honors a researcher, engineer, technician or administrative worker who stands out in the field of research promotion and through their ability to be in dialogue with society and attentive to the health questions of its citizens.