Jan 29, 2021
Caroline Achard, Monogastric Center of Excellence: “I really enjoy working on microbiota research. Because this is an evolving subject, there’s always new material and new technologies”
Jan 29, 2021
Meet our researcher: Caroline Achard, Research Scientist, Monogastric Center of Excellence
- Based in Toulouse, France
- Ph.D. in fundamental research
- Areas of expertise: biochemistry, molecular biology, cellular biology, bioinformatics & OMICS
Caroline, tell us a bit about yourself, your passions, why did you choose to be a researcher?
When I was young I wanted to work and learn about agribusiness. What I really enjoyed was visiting farms and learning about zootechnics.
After high school, I studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique in Rennes, where I began to focus more on zootechnics. Throughout my studies, I discovered molecular biology and biochemistry, and I pursued my studies to obtain a Ph.D. in fundamental research. At that time, I didn’t really think about my future career: I just wanted to study what I enjoyed at that exact moment.
I ended up writing my thesis at INSERM (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale) in Paris. The main subjects were biochemistry, molecular, cellular biology in humans, and cell signaling. It was very fundamental, and there were few direct applications of my studies. I was mainly in the lab and far from the animal nutrition and zootechnics fields then!
After my Ph.D., I wanted to pursue studying cell signaling in other research domains. I conducted a postdoc in Australia where I worked for more than three years at a medical research institute in Sydney. I joined a research team that worked on diabetes and obesity, and my topic of interest was insulin resistance. The technologies were pretty much the same I used during my thesis, so there was no big change for me apart from the topic. It allowed me to discover a new way of working and to improve my English!
During this postdoc, I became more interested in the microbiota. There were more and more studies on the role of the human intestinal microbiota and its link to diabetes and obesity. This is where I discovered the world of microbes!
When I got back to France, I wanted to do something more focused on applications and away from the medical environment. I wanted something more oriented on zootechnics and related to animal nutrition. I found a fixed-term contract for my postdoc at the INRAe in Toulouse focused on rabbits and swine breeding research.
The goal was to analyze the antibiotic resistance borne by the microbes inside the gut. What we found during this research was that even though we reduced antibiotics, the resistance genes expressed by the microbes inside the gut were persisting, and they are transmitted by the mother to the newborns. The idea was then to interfere to limit this transmission. This research really allowed me to follow a project in connection with the field: I was in touch with veterinarians, I went to look for samples in the field… I really enjoyed getting out of the lab! During this experience, this is where I started to analyze the microbiota.
When the end of my postdoc was near, my team leader was starting a new project in collaboration with Mathieu Castex from Lallemand, who came to visit us. That’s how I met him! We then discussed a bit about our common interests, and I managed to convince him that I had the profile to join the Lallemand R&D team. And that’s how I joined the company!
What is exciting about your job at the Lallemand Center of Excellence?
I really enjoy working on microbiota research. Because this is an evolving subject, there’s always new material and new technologies. I think my cellular biology background allows me to better understand projects related to the host’s response to the microbiota.
What I also like about my job is that I got to keep the academic part. I spend a lot of time in the INRAe of Toulouse, and I get the opportunity to share with other researchers. One other thing that I enjoy is explaining my research results to the marketing team so they can communicate to our customers.
Even though I spend a lot of time on the computer, I still get to experiment in the lab, and to go collect samples directly from the field. I’m never bored!
What makes Lallemand Centers of Excellence different?
To me, contact with the academic world is very precious. We get to share knowledge with other researchers.
The arrival of Emmanuelle Apper as the Manager of the Centers of Excellence also puts an emphasis on the transversality between our different centers around the world. We share a lot with each other, on our different projects and our results. We have a strong team spirit, even though we’re apart!
The Centers of Excellence gives us the opportunity to follow and complete the development of new technologies, in addition to working on our products and deciphering their impacts on the gut microbiota.