Actualité - Portrait

Arrival of Dr. Olivier Saulnier: a new team dedicated to genomics in pediatric oncology


On October 19, Dr. Olivier Saulnier arrived at Institut Curie in Paris as a new Junior Principal Investigator at the Cancer, Heterogeneity, Instability and Plasticity unit (Inserm U830) headed by Dr. Olivier Delattre. Along with his team, Genomics and Development of Childhood Cancers, he will seek to understand how cancerous cells disrupt normal embryonic development programs for their own purposes.


 Can you tell us about your background?

Dr. Olivier Saulnier: I have a mixed background in biology et bioinformatics, and I did my thesis at Institut Curie where I began my interest in pediatric oncology in Dr. Olivier Delattre’s research team. The goal was to better understand the oncogenic mechanisms of Ewing sarcoma. As my interest in pediatric oncology grew, I completed a post-doctoral fellowship at SickKids in Toronto, in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Taylor*. There I was able to work on tumor architecture and the developmental origins of medulloblastoma, a pediatric brain tumor.

 What is the focus of your work?

Dr. Olivier Saulnier: Unlike adult cancers that are due to ageing and exposure to mutagens, pediatric cancers arise from deregulation of the developmental programs that govern normal cell development.

My work focuses mainly on the study of transcriptional programs during embryonic development and their implications in the genesis of cancer cells. Using Single Cell genomics technologies, I am looking to retrace the origins of pediatric cancer in both space and time.

More recently, one of my post-doctoral projects, published in the journal Nature, helped to identify a cell type present only during fetal development of the human brain, and at the origin of medulloblastoma. These results are very important since they open up new possibilities that we did not suspect, enabling us to prevent this disease before it even appears.

At Institut Curie, I would like to continue with this work and apply it to other pediatric cancers.

Can you tell us about your experiences arriving at Institut Curie?

Dr. Olivier Saulnier: I am very happy to have joined Institut Curie; it’s an institution famed for its research in oncology, particularly in pediatrics. It offers the ideal environment, providing immediate support to young team leaders and exceptional opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration. Here I feel prepared to face new challenges, which I hope will produce major breakthroughs in pediatric oncology!

*Head of research team at SickKids (Toronto, Canada) specialized in molecular genetics of medulloblastoma and ependymoma, two of the most common malignant pediatric brain tumors.


New Junior Principal Investigators (JPIs) receive a starting package on arrival at the Research Center. This involves financial support and tailored services to establish a research team, in particular, with the assistance of a scientific editor for ERC projects.

Therefore, from arrival, they have access to their offices, shared equipment in their unit, administrative support and common resources made available at the Research Center.

This supportive approach is only possible thanks to the generosity of the public.