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AgreenSkills+ and INRA Loire Valley welcome research fellow

INRA Loire Valley welcomes Mohammed Akli Ayoub, fellow in the 2014–2019 AgreenSkills+ international mobility programme and recipient of the LE STUDIUM® Research Fellowship – Smart Loire Valley, for a three-year fellowship. Working in the Joint Research Unit for Reproductive and Behavioural Physiology’s (PRC) Biology and Bioinformatics of Signalling Systems (BIOS) team, Ayoub is developing a new generation of antibodies as a part of a project on biopharmaceuticals. He speaks about his past work and current projects.

Mohammed Akli Ayoub, fellow in the AgreenSkills+ international mobility programme. © INRA
Updated on 09/02/2014
Published on 08/14/2014

AgreenSkills (2012–2016) and AgreenSkills+ (2014–2019) are international, incoming–outgoing mobility programmes for experienced young researchers from all disciplines and without condition of nationality doing research in the fields of agriculture, food, nutrition, animal health, veterinary public health, and the environment. Approximately 200 young researchers and teacher-researchers will become fellows by programme end. Following a highly competitive and entirely international selection process, fellows will have the best possible conditions to carry out their one- to three-year mobility projects.

Q&A with Mohammed Akli Ayoub,
fellow in the AgreenSkills+ international mobility programme and recipient of the LE STUDIUM® Research Fellowship – Smart Loire Valley

•    What has your career path been?

I obtained my doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2003 from the University of Paris XI. I did a postgraduate diploma and my doctoral thesis at the Institut Cochin in Paris on the study of the dimerisation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR).* I worked extensively on melatonin receptors and, at the same time, I also contributed to the development and application of bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) technology, a biophysical technique used to study protein interactions in living cells.
In 2004, I joined the Institute of Functional Genomics (IGF) in Montpellier for my first ANR postdoctoral fellowship. I studied GPCRs, BRET technology, and homogeneous time-resolved fluorescence (HTRF®) technology as a part of a project with Cisbio Bioassays, a company working with GPCRs and HTRF technology using fluorescent molecules from rare earth elements. To broaden my research experience, I decided to go overseas to do a second postdoctoral fellowship on GPCR–protein complexes at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Australia, where I was for three years. I then spent two years in academia, as an assistant professor at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.

•    What are you working on now?

I joined the PRC’s BIOS team on 1 July 2014. I was recruited by the LE STUDIUM® Research Fellowship – Smart Loire Valley to take up a post as “Research Project Leader” in Centre region’s Ambition, Research, and Development 2020 (ARD 2020) programme on biopharmaceuticals. This research project, which is also supported by AgreenSkills, will last for three years. It looks at the development and pharmacological characterisation of a new class of antibodies, known as nanobodies, that target GPCRs for possible applications in humans and in animals. Selected targets include GPCRs involved in reproduction, in inflammation, in metabolism, and even in managing social interactions. This project is very much in keeping with the work of the Joint Research Unit for Reproductive and Behavioural Physiology (UMR PRC) and the MabImprove laboratory of excellence (LabEx) that BIOS participates in. Another unique aspect of the project is the active involvement of Synthelis, a startup from Grenoble, France.

•    What does AgreenSkills provide you?

I benefit in two ways from the AgreenSkills programme:

  • scientifically, it is an incredible opportunity for me to pursue research in my field of expertise, GPCR pharmacology and signalling, by participating in a highly ambitious project with applications in agriculture and in biomedicine. The project will also allow me to gain additional experience and to share my expertise with other researchers in the research unit and at INRA Loire Valley;
  • professionally, it is a wonderful opportunity to work with INRA for the first time and to potentially pursue a career in a field dealing with agricultural development in a variety of ways.
* G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs): GPCRs are protein-structure receptors that are embedded in cell plasma membranes. The extracellular part of the receptor is highly specialised in identifying chemical messengers. GPCRs are able to transmit “messages” to the cell interior and inform cells about physiological and environmental changes outside the cell. GPCRs are a major area of focus for drugs owing to their ubiquitous nature and multiple physiological functions.
For more information: http://bios.tours.inra.fr/

Find out more

AgreenSkills - Presentation on Agreenium's website:
AgreenSkills: an international mobility programme for young experienced researchers

LE STUDIUM® is a regional agency promoting research in France's Centre region and hosts internationally renowned researchers.