Jean Pierre Benoit (66 year old) obtained a Pharmacy degree at the University of Tours in 1976, an advanced degree and doctorate in macromolecular organic chemistry at the University of Mans between 1977 and 1979. Afterwards, he obtained a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of South Paris in 1983. Since then, he pursued an academic career as research assistant and associate Professor at the University of South Paris and then as full Professor and Hospital Pharmacist at the University of Angers. Here, he created in 2001 a French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) / University of Angers joint research team, the "Biomimetic micro and nanomedicine" unit, that he headed during 16 years until 2017.
JP Benoit has been a pioneer in drug delivery, setting up and managing multi-disciplinary teams - formed of physicists, chemists, galenists, biologists and clinical physicians - highly committed to the development of innovative and translational approaches for the benefit of the patients. The research activities of JP Benoit have been focused on the conception, development, characterization and preclinical evaluation of pharmaceutical vectors (nanomedicines or micromedicines) able to deliver pharmacological molecules or cells to target tissues. The main applications of its research have been cancer treatment and tissue engineering.
Together with its hospital, academic and research commitments, JP Benoit invested in the promotion of academic research by creating the Microencapsulation Centre in Angers (1992), the Mainelab SA (1999) and finally Carlina Technologies (2010), in the field of nanomedicines. This activity has enabled him to create around thirty jobs in Angers, outside the academic sector.
JP Benoit has been awarded by several (inter)national awards during its career, including the Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress Research Achievement Award in 2010, and the Grand Prix of the French National Academy of Pharmacy (Notoriety Prize) in 2011.
He is presently the President of the local charity organization, la Ligue contre le Cancer, dedicated to the help and the support of patients suffering from this disease as well as the financial support of the research in this area.
1) What sparked your interest in science in general and drug delivery/nanomedicine in particular?
I was passionately fond of Chemistry and especially Organic Chemistry when I was in High School. This is why I started my training in Pharmacy, at College. Organic Chemistry was for me like a Lego game: we can create almost whatever we want. Later on, unfortunately I did not find an academic position in this area. But, because of my background of Pharmacy and Organic/Polymer Chemistry, I was appointed Assistant Professor in Galenical Pharmacy (Formulation Sciences) at the University of Paris-Sud. I discovered another discipline that stands at the crossroads of many fields: chemistry, physics, biology, clinical pharmacy, etc… And I really found this area exciting.
2) Did you experience a significant turning point or defining moment during your career?
There were a couple of significant turning points in my career. But the most important was my appointment as Full Professor of Pharmaceutics at the University of Angers in the late 80’s. From there, I created from scratch my own research laboratory and set my own research projects. Since then, I was totally independent and tried to do my best to develop my research group.
3) According to you, what are the most exciting developments in your research field?
I am impressed by all the formulation innovations that are on the market in Oncology. For instance, in the single area of the metastatic breast cancer treatment, one can find sub-cutaneous formulations of trastuzumab including hyaluronidase, that represent a major advance with respect to IV solutions in terms of comfort for the patients. But also, oral formulations of tyrosine kinase inhibitors are available as well as intramuscular formulations of an estrogen receptor degrader, nanomedicines such as pegylated or non pegylated liposomes, and albumin nanoparticles,… For other types of cancer (prostate, neuro-endocrine tumors), sustained-release biodegradable microspheres or implants loaded with peptides are proposed. For the treatment of glioblastoma, biodegradable BCNU-loaded discs designed to be placed in the resection cavity of the brain have been approved. In situ gelling systems have recently appeared on the market for treating advanced prostate cancer. The list of innovations is endless.
4) What is the best piece of professional advice you have received and from whom?
The best professional advice that I have received is the following ‘Do what ever you want (including manual or artistic work), but do it right’. It came from my father (who is still among us and in a great shape).
5) Would you change anything about your career path if you could start over? During my career path, definitely no. But in my studies at College, I should have invested more in mathematics, to better understand the area of artificial intelligence and to gain benefit from its power in my research.
6) What advice would you give to someone who is starting their scientific career?
To know oneself in priority and this is not obvious. The enneagram personality test from Helen Palmer could be a good start but there are also other tools. In addition, this personal analysis will allow to better perceive the personalities of people around you and to interact with them in an optimal way. This is precious in a team and/or in the frame of collaborations.
7) How do you manage a healthy balance between work and personal life?
For me, this is not too hard because I do things, including work, only by pleasure. This is my driving force in life. Consequently, when I feel fed up with work, I do not keep on working but I switch to other personal centers of interest (see below). This is my way to fit work with my personal life. But having said that, there are other driving forces and each one has to know his own to try to find the best balance of his mind (see above).
8) What do you enjoy doing outside of the lab? What are your hobbies/interests?
I have many fields of interest. Firstly, I do a lot of sport, mainly biking, hiking and golf. Secondly, I like very much History. Obviously, I know more about French History than History of the other countries. Nevertheless, I am very curious about what happened abroad and this helps me to better understand, presently, geopolitics. Like many people, I like also travelling. Finally, I like wine and gastronomy as a gourmet.
9) Why would you advise scientists to become CRS and Local Chapter members and what are the membership’s benefits?
In my opinion, a scientist should develop networking to perform better in his research, setting collaborations with recognized specialists. In addition, it is a good way to open his mind to other ways of thinking and, more generally, to other cultures. Looking at things differently can be a source of professional progress and personal benefit for sure. Becoming a member of CRS and its Local Chapter allows this.