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Eugenio de la Mora - Innovating for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. De la Mora is a Mexican researcher, currently holding a postdoctoral position at CEA/IBS (Institute of Structural Biology). He agreed to give us an interview to share his experience as an Enhanced Eurotalents fellow. 

Published on 22 March 2017
  • What is your professional background before coming to CEA?

I studied at the University of Mexico, where I got both my masters and PhD in Biochemistry, more precisely in crystallography. During my PhD I carried out a 6-month internship at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom). I held a two-year postdoc position in the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Mexico, before applying for a position at CEA where I started in January 2015.

  • What is your research project at CEA about? Are you happy with the progress you have made so far?

My research project is entitled "The dynamic personality of enzymes studied by kinetic X-ray crystallography using synchrotron radiation and X-ray free electron lasers". To put it simply, my host laboratory at CEA, in collaboration with other groups, aims at improving treatment for the Alzheimer's disease by developing inhibitors for a specific enzyme, acetylcholinesterase (AChE), that hydrolyses the neurotransmitter acetylcholinesterase. AChE is a molecular target for drugs aiming at treating Alzheimer's disease, and is also relevant because its inhibition by neurotoxic agents can cause intoxication.

The project is going well – we had some good results, even though a great deal of additional experiments is ahead of us. IBS is quite a big laboratory but I am part of a subgroup of 6 people.

  • What do you like about your field of research?

I like the practical aspect of my field. It involves lots of experiments because we have to try out new ideas. I really enjoy this mix of fundamental and applied science. Furthermore, in all modesty, what we develop and discover as scientists in biochemistry benefits our society at large. It's really rewarding when you make progress, because Alzheimer's disease is, to say the least, a widely spread human health issue.

  • Is your work environment international?

We mostly speak French at the lab but the institute is quite international. It enables the meeting of different ways of working and I reckon it benefits the laboratory. Language-wise, it was hard at first but after a few months, I started grasping basic elements and it got much easier to fit in. Thankfully, all the members of my laboratory are very friendly and now I really enjoy life in France.

  • What are the strengths of your stay at CEA?

Beyond the prestige involved by the mention of CEA on my CV, a strength of my stay here is the freedom I am given. As we have amazing facilities here, as soon as we have an idea we can pretty much get down to it at once. In addition, my colleagues are always willing to take part in experiments – the work atmosphere is quite enjoyable.

  • In February 2016, you took part in the training session named "Post-doc: how to manage your career?" in INSTN – the training institute at CEA – Saclay? What did you think about it?

To be completely honest, the other fellows and I were not expecting much from this training session. In the end however, we were pleasantly surprised. It was actually really useful. Four days is a bit long because we had to come all the way from Grenoble but it was worth it. 

  • What are your plans after your postdoc?

I would love to stay in France but competition is really hard in this country – and in Europe in general for that matter. However, it would also be difficult to go back to Mexico, where I would not have access to the same cutting-edge facilities. In Europe, I have unique possibilities in terms of research.