Actualité - Award

Congratulations to Dr. Alexandre Baffet, 2023 winner of the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller Impulscience program


Dr. Alexandre Baffet, head of research team at the Institut Curie, is one of 7 new beneficiaries of the Impulscience research support program. This 2.3 million euro grant will enable him to learn more about brain stem cells, especially in the human neocortex.

portrait du Dr Alexandre Baffet

The neocortex is the center of higher cognitive functions such as language and decision-making. During embryonic development, neural stem cells known as radial glial cells generate a wide variety of cells required for its optimal function. However, alterations in these processes can lead to a variety of pathologies, including brain malformations and pediatric brain tumors.

Thanks to the Impulscience program, Dr. Alexandre Baffet, leader of the Cell Biology of Mammalian Neurogenesis team (CNRS UMR144 / Sorbonne Université), will seek to understand how these stem cells generate the right cell types at the right time. He will also focus on the evolutionary dimension, trying to understand the differences between the human cortex and that of other primates.

During recent evolution, this brain region has grown significantly in primates. We believe that these morphological changes are linked to the different behavior of stem cells during embryogenesis, leading to different cognitive properties

Explains the researcher.

To study these aspects, Dr. Alexandre Baffet uses brain organoids, models of brain tissue developed in vitro. This allows him to determine when stem cells make different decisions and produce different cell types, identifying the factors and mechanisms that influence this process.

This question is widely explored in genomics thanks to sequencing techniques. Our approach here is characterized by the use of real-time imaging, which provides a further perspective. We gain insight into how stem cells divide and generate different cell subtypes according to the context

He explains.

Thanks to the funding, Dr. Alexandre Baffet will be able to acquire a new microscope to capture images over longer periods of time.

We'll be able to collect more comprehensive data and gain a better understanding of the behavior of neural stem cells, by imaging them over very long periods of time

Explains the researcher

This will also enable him to cover a number of other needs, including recruiting new staff and purchasing consumables essential to its work on brain organoids, which are effective but costly models.

This work makes a significant contribution to our understanding of brain development, and could lead to important clinical and therapeutic applications in the field of neurobiology.

Find out more

Awarded by the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller since 2022, Impulscience aims to reward innovative projects in life sciences. It is intended for researchers under 50 years of age, working in a public laboratory in France and having been classified as category A in the European Research Council's (ERC) Starting, Consolidator or Advanced calls for projects. The aim is to provide each project with 2.3 million euros of financial support over a 5-year period, in order to provide the necessary conditions for its successful completion. Each year, 7 projects are funded.

Dr. Chunlong Chen was the first Institut Curie laureate to benefit from the Impulscience program in 2022, for his fundamental biology work on the regulation of DNA replication and genomic transcription.