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Lucie Pellissier awarded a 2019 ERC Starting Grant

Lucie Pellissier, a CNRS research scientist at the Joint Research Unit for Reproductive and Behavioural Physiology (PRC) at the INRA Val de Loire Centre, has been awarded a 2019 Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). She will receive 1.5 million euros in funding to pursue her research on social behaviour. The grant will also invigorate the unit’s work as a whole.

Lucie Pellissier, lauréate de l’appel ERC Starting Grant 2019 (dans l'UMR PRC, Inra Val de Loire) © Bertrand Nicolas
Updated on 10/04/2019
Published on 09/09/2019

ERC Starting Grants are given to young scientists of all nationalities who are beginning their careers (i.e., 2–7 years of post-PhD research experience). The grant programme has a single selection criterion: excellence. Awardees receive up to 1.5 million euros in financial support, which is intended to help them become established in a research laboratory in an EU Member Country or an Associated Country. Thanks to these funds, Lucie Pellissier can establish a research team of her own and set up long-term research projects. Lucie Pellissier is currently working with behaviour-focused research teams within PRC. Her future project will build on this collaboration, which includes a study dissecting the role of oxytocin, a hormone previously identified as being involved in sociability. Additional resources will be provided by the L'Orfrasière Animal Physiology Experimental Unit (UEPAO) and PRC’s platforms at the INRA Val de Loire Centre.

In 2019, of the 3,106 proposals submitted to the different ERC Starting Grant panels, a total of 408 projects (i.e., 13.1%) were funded. The successful PIs represented 51 different nationalities, and 38% were women.

The Therautism project: researching the mechanisms underlying sociability

Lucie Pellissier’s project has two main objectives. The first objective is to identify all the molecular and cellular mechanisms that shape sociability, as well the factors that promote neuroplasticity and encourage social interactions among members of the same species. To this end, Lucie Pellisier will compare the neuronal networks involved in sociability among social mice species. She will do the same for mice lineages that display low sociability in association with genetic mutations linked with autism spectrum disorders. Lucie Pellissier will then ascertain whether these molecular mechanisms are present in other mammals, including livestock species, in which individuals display low sociability.   

The second objective is to determine whether these different shared mechanisms lead to deregulation within the brain, with a view to identifying new targets for enhancing sociability. By focusing on different targets using varying molecular strategies and pharmacological treatments, it may be possible to improve the condition and well-being of individuals with low sociability. 


Associated Division(s):
Animal Physiology and Livestock Systems
Associated Centre(s):
Val de Loire

Scientific contact:

Lucie Pellissier, BIOS team, Joint Research Unit for Reproductive and Behavioural Physiology (PRC), UMR 85 INRA, UMR 7247 CNRS, University of Tours, and French Institute for Horses and Riding


Lucie Pellissier earned her PhD in Molecular Neurobiology in 2009 from the Institute for Functional Genomics, which is associated with the University of Montpellier. After completing a long first post-doc at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam, she joined the Joint Research Unit for Reproductive and Behavioural Physiology (PRC) at INRA’s Val de Loire Centre. This second post-doc was funded by a Marie Curie AgreenSkills Grant. In 2017, Pellisier obtained a permanent position as a CNRS research scientist while maintaining her affiliation with PRC. In 2018, she became the joint head of a key research project at Labex MAbImprove, which focused on how target activity could be modulated through antibody binding.