Dr. Raphaël Rodriguez awarded the Liliane Bettencourt Prize for Life Sciences
Dr. Raphaël Rodriguez, head of the Chemical Biology team (CNRS UMR3666 / Inserm U1143), has been named winner of the 2023 Liliane Bettencourt Prize for Life Sciences. This award recognizes his work on the design of small molecules to dissect cellular processes related to cancer, inflammation and aging.
Throughout his scientific career, Dr. Raphaël Rodriguez, head of the Chemical Biology team (CNRS UMR3666 / Inserm U1143) at Institut Curie, has developed innovative research that not only generates promising avenues for new tratments for cancer and inflammation, but also offers original insight into the importance of chemistry for cell function. The quality of his research has therefore earned him the 2023 Liliane Bettencourt Prize for Life Sciences.
Combining chemistry and biology, a natural process
Raphaël Rodriguez's work focuses on the design of small molecules to dissect cellular processes related to cancer, inflammation, and aging. The effects induced by these small molecules enable him to identify new therapeutic targets. Over the course of his career, he has designed protocols to isolate and characterize small molecule targets, and has also developed methods to view them in cells in order to provide information about their mechanism.
To name just one example, the researcher and his team have shed light on the action mechanism of salinmycin, a natural product capable of eradicating cancer stem cells, which are known to contribute to metastasis and relapses. This work revealed that cancer cells have a high iron load that makes them vulnerable to a particular type of cell death, called ferroptosis. This observation led them to uncover a mechanism of metal absorption that regulates the plasticity of cancer and immune cells.
Seeking an impact on health
These latest discoveries have enabled Raphaël Rodriguez to identify signaling pathways involving copper and iron that seem to be promising avenues for new treatments of cancer and inflammation. In this way, he and his team have highlighted the central role of metals as regulators of transitions between cell states in cancer and inflammation.
The mechanisms, drug targets and vulnerabilities in this signaling pathway can be exploited for therapeutic intervention, bringing the researcher closer to his long-term goal: to impact health.
My career has been driven by the idea that my actions could have an impact on health
says Raphaël Rodriguez
Find out more
Each year, the Liliane Bettencourt Prize for Life Sciences is awarded to a researcher under the age of 45 for their outstanding work and valuable contribution to their field of scientific research. Depending on the year, the award is given to a researcher established in France or working in another European country. Twenty-seven people have won the award since 1997. Starting in 2023, a prize of 100,000 euros will be personally awarded to the winner.