On February 2022, I officially joined the MSCA – ITN – ALLODD as an early-stage researcher (ESR) at Merck Healthcare KGaA (Darmstadt, Germany). MSCA – ITN program aims to promote international and interdisciplinary collaboration.
As part of this training program, we first met in Vienna in April; you can find some blogposts below. In today´s blogpost, I would like to talk about the 1st training school & Networking meeting which was held in Barcelona. As covid restrictions were slightly less important than in Vienna, this workshop was the opportunity for most of the consortium members to attend in-person.
The workshop started with a 2-day conference focusing on allostery in drug discovery with various speakers working both in industry and academia and sharing different perspectives of the topic. The first lecture was held by Dr. Jean-Pierre Changeux, the world-known scientist who described the concept of allostery in 1965. One of Jean-Pierre´s key message was serendipity: an unplanned fortunate discovery (like penicillin). Although, his advice was also to do not misinterpret data, for example receptor dimerization should always be taken in account. I hope I will be as quick-witted as he is at 86 years old !
The third day was dedicated to the presentation of our research project. I really enjoy having some more description and going a bit more into details and objectives of each PhD project. Although I am the only ESR working on new biological entities (NBE), the so-called antibodies-derived “nanobodies” gained attendees´ attention.
The industry vs academia perspectives monopolized once again our conversation as we also discussed about our career plan. As I always have been working in industry, become a Scientist in a pharmaceutical company is a natural move for me, I have never thought about changing my career plan. Nevertheless, during our PhD we are going to acquire several skills that will be useful and valuable for a broad range of career plans outside R&D (marketing, venture, …). Furthermore, the application area is neither blocked by our PhD project, Dr. J.P. Changeux studied marine biology and then dedicated all his life to neurobiology and enzymology. My advice will be: learn; read as much as you can, try to deeply understand the concept, do not hesitate to ask questions and share your knowledge.
During this workshop, we also had the opportunity to meet other PhD students working also on allostery. This was very valuable for me as I realized the power of the MSCA ITN program: “Connecting knowledge to grow a network− growing a network to explore/share knowledge” as we said in Vienna. Especially for me, being an industrial PhD student, having many interactions with the academic world and with people all over Europe working on the same topic will for sure empower my work. In addition, as an ESR I must perform three secondments that will not only allow me to adapt to a new country but also to learn new technics and participate to this collaborative project. This workshop was also an overview of the upcoming months as I will spend 3 months in beautiful Barcelona, working on FRET assays with Prof. Carles Curutchet.
To conclude, I am delighted to have joined such a collaborative network and I am looking forward to seeing every member of the ALLODD consortium. Next workshop will be co-organized by the University of Strasbourg and Merck Healthcare KGaA, stay tuned.