Why have you chosen to do a PhD in an international collaboration project?
The international collaboration is a very stimulating environment, and very valuable to me. I can see a lot of possible connections in all of the different PhD projects, and by joining efforts together it can only lead to more opportunities for discovery. By playing off each other’s strengths it feels like there is no limitation in starting new research ideas.
My lab and the PhD-project I am doing
At DTU, in the group of Network Engineering of Eukaryotic Cell Factories, we focus on quantitative analysis of cells using genome-scale technologies and data integration, as well as data analysis for a deeper understanding of cells with the aim of driving cell engineering.
At UCB Pharma in the Upstream Process Sciences department, our objective is to develop, optimize -at early stage- and characterize -at late stage- mammalian cell culture processes in bioreactors at different scales, for monoclonal antibody production. After development, the optimized bio-manufacturing process is transferred to the bio pilot platform that will manufacture the protein-based products that are under clinical development, within UCB’s pipeline.
Because biopharmaceutical companies are facing short timelines for decision making, there is a lack of fundamental understanding and the process strategies are mainly empirically determined. Key metabolic information are often missing to solve some major issues during process development or scale up, to address for example physiological changes in growth or non-growth phases, early metabolite depletion or increased oxidative stress.
Therefore in silico modeling of CHO cells is a valuable tool for characterization of internal metabolic behaviors, to overcome growth limitation and support data interpretation by exploring relevant pathways, to design new feeding strategies by predicting the effect of perturbations of feeding rate or to find new targets for genetic engineering by predicting the effect of a gene deletion or gene insertion.
What kind of tips would you give to future PhDs taking part in an ITN?
My experience within eCHO has been very rich on many aspects so far. The Innovative Training Network gives you the opportunity to have experience abroad by working on projects with scientists from different countries, and to get new competences in disciplines such as project management, presentation techniques and different theoretical and practical scientific skills.
I have always liked traveling and meeting people from different backgrounds who sometimes surprise you by thinking in a very different way, so for me it’s also a life experience that opens up your mind to new possibilities. I would recommend this ITN experience to people who are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone and who are eager for the opportunity to understand what the new people and experiences are all about.
Cyrielle Calmels, UCB
After my Bachelor’s degree in a preparatory school in Paris, I did my Master’s degree in a biotechnology engineering school - the Bordeaux School of Biomolecular Technology - specialized in the production and characterization of biomolecules. During my education I performed a first internship at the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology , that brought me technical experience in purification and microbial culture. My final year internship took place at Arbor Vita Corporation in the San Francisco bay area, where I had a chance to work on the development of the OncoE6™ Cervical Test. This diagnostic test used for cervical cancer screening is based on the detection of oncoproteins using monoclonal antibodies in a lateral-flow assay format.
When I first joined UCB Pharma in 2014 I achieved two main projects: on one hand the development and implementation of miniaturized purifications on a robotic platform, and on the other hand the development of enzymatic methods for metabolite quantitation. In 2015 I started my PhD project which is focused on genome-scale modeling approach for characterization of CHO cell metabolic network. I am now enrolled at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and hired by UCB Pharma in Belgium.