Actualité - Innovation

A European boost for Danijela Vignjevic

Céline Giustranti
12/14/2017
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Danijela Vignjevic’s research area falls between biology and physics. Therein lies the originality of her approach to understanding the development of colon cancer.
Danijela Vignjevic

The ERC (European Research Council) is, in some respects, the Holy Grail for researchers. The highly competitive funding from the European Research Council offers different categories for both junior and senior researchers. After receiving this funding as a young researcher in 2012, which enabled her to set up her team, Inserm research director Danijela Vignjevic is now receiving new, highly competitive funding – but this time as an experienced researcher, an ERC consolidator.

Danijela Vignjevic: between biology and physics

In 2004, after completing his PhD in Chicago, Prof. Daniel Louvard, then director of Institut Curie Research Center, offered her a position on his team to develop her own research subject, and she enthusiastically embarked on that adventure. This fantastic opportunity – as she herself describes it – enabled her to continue the work she had begun with her thesis on cellular mobility in in vitro models on animal subjects. But when she joined Institut Curie, Danijela Vignjevic was also aware of the wonderful opportunities offered by the Imaging Center, one of the most effective in the research world. She has everything she needs to observe intestinal cells moving, and thus to better understand how they work, how they change into a tumor, and the methods used to invade other tissues during tumor development.

In 2012, an initial grant from the ERC in the “starting” category helped her as she worked on setting up her own research team. She acquired a two-photon microscope, and with it the chance to observe cells differently and to discover more about them. At the same time, she continued to develop projects that touched upon cellular biology, oncology, and physics.

Indeed, using intestinal biopsies cultivated ex vivo and two-photon microscopy, Danijela Vignjevic tackled one of the questions that remains unanswered among specialists in cellular migration, namely the issue of whether intestinal cells actively migrate or are passively “pushed” under the pressure of cell divisions.

With her team, she is developing three-dimensional in vitro cell cultures, under conditions that are closer to physiological reality than the usual cell cultures on flat lamellae. “With these innovative, appropriate systems, we hope to be able to test the effects of the microenvironment components on the mobility of cancer cells,” explains the young head of the cell migration and invasion team. Danijela Vignjevic is not afraid of a fresh challenge, and this new ERC financing will help her to attain innovative milestones.