Meet Franck Perez, new Unit Director

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On January 1, 2019, the management of the Cellular biology and cancer unit (UMR 144 CNRS/Institute Curie) is changing. Bruno Goud is handing over the role of unit director to the team leader Franck Perez. Interview with these two researcher-managers and biologists at the Research Center in Paris.

  • Franck Perez, why did you apply for this management position?
    Bruno Goud led the unit for more than two terms and each one in turn has to get involved in major joint projects. After discussion with the other team leaders from the Sub-cellular Structure and Cellular Dynamics unit, I felt that I may have the right background to take on the management of the unit. Since my time at Institut Curie began over twenty years ago, I have seen many aspects of it since I founded a young team which then became permanent, created two joint platforms, served on the Scientific commission then on the Board of Directors of Institut Curie, and I am very involved in issues concerning technological transfer and development. I hope that this vision, combined with my active role within the unit, will help me to sustain it at the level of scientific excellence that it enjoys today, while strengthening contacts and sharing within it.
  • What is your vision for Institut Curie?
    It is an institute characterized above all by the power to act. Thanks to the foundation and to the confidence of our donors, we can fully conceive of conducting joint projects, and supporting them through ambition and excellence. Institut Curie also enjoys an environment of unique quality and diversity. Diversity of expertise, models and questions. Quality of teams, platforms and support structures overall. It is vital that Institut Curie continue to invest heavily in these structures since they are the backbone of the institute.
  • Can you imagine forging ties with the Hospital Group, with translational research?
    The diversity that I mentioned earlier is connected to all interfaces that exist within the institute. Interface between physics and biology, which is particularly important for the UMR144, the interface with chemistry and biology that we need to strengthen, interface with immunology, with genetics, with bio-informatics, etc. But of course, since Institut Curie is a cancer research center with a Hospital Group dedicated to these diseases, it is vital to vest the interface with clinical activity, profit from the expertise and questions asked by physicians and to work together, directly or through the Department of translational research. And we have chosen to rename our unit “Cellular biology and cancer” in order to reiterate this position. This name emphasizes that the unit includes teams focusing on cellular biology, seeking to understand the basic mechanisms, but that we are also very involved in the study of cancer, and strongly committed to using our knowledge and skills in cellular biology to improve the understanding and treatment of cancer.
  • Does the new unit mean new projects, or rather continuity?
    We have recently recruited two new teams, and they are bringing their energy, their projects and their models to the unit. The projects are now in place. After the upcoming renovations, we will not be recruiting any new teams in the near future. However we have been thinking about the future of cellular biology and of the unit within Institut Curie, and we have identified the challenges that we will have to face, the weaknesses that we will need to correct and the investments to be made. This includes, for example, making progress in image analysis and more generally in quantitative biology, in modelling, in implementation of new integrated models such as organoids from pluripotent cells, in in vivo studies.
  • You asked Renata Basto to be assistant director of the unit?
    When we discussed my candidacy for the role of director of UMR 144, it appeared obvious that we needed to have a management team, and not simply a chosen director. I soon asked Renata Basto if she was prepared to support me in this mission. She accepted and I am very grateful to her. It is important that we get along perfectly even if we are very different, in agreement on the majority of topics – but not all! -, each one of us with our own qualities and flaws. Mutual respect and complementarity are essential in my view. I plan to maintain a constant dialogue with her and to fully share all information, even though – I am well aware – it will be up to me to arbitrate and assume the responsibilities of the unit leader.
“I wish you every success! It is a large and wonderful unit at the heart of Institut Curie’s research. I am sure that Franck Perez and Renata Basto will do a great job of running it. My team will continue with its research in this new Cellular biology and cancer unit over the next five years.” Bruno Goud, director of the Research Center since September 1, 2018, and now team leader in Franck Perez’ unit.