Véronique Préat is full professor of pharmaceutics at the university of Louvain. She is heading a research group on advanced drug delivery and Biomaterials. Her research focuses on new delivery systems for unmet medical and pharmaceutical needs. In particular, her research on nanomedicines mainly focuses on i) the oral delivery of lipidic and polymeric nanoparticles loaded with drugs, proteins or antigens and ii) the delivery of nanoparticles and drug‐conjugates targeting the tumoral endothelium and cancer cells. She also aims to develop nanomedicines and physical methods (electroporation) for the delivery of DNA and RNA with a particular interest in vaccination. She (co)supervised 45 PhD theses. She is author of more than 300 publications, book chapters and patents (h index 64 and more than 20000 citations). She is a highly cited researcher since 2015.
1. What sparked your interest in science in general and drug delivery/nanomedicine in particular?
In high school, I wanted to do biomedical research. After hesitating between chemistry and biology, I chose pharmacy. During my master, I was a “research student” and went to a research lab during most of the practical trainings. I enjoyed it a lot and started a PhD thesis in liver carcinogenesis. I then moved to the drug delivery field and the design of new drug delivery systems for unmet medical needs. My motivation was the potential impact of the research and the potential translation to the clinics.
2. Did you experience a significant turning point or defining moment during your career?
I identify two key elements. The first one is the early development of an international network with young European colleagues that are now very well known in the field and the participation to international collaborative projects. The second turning point was to move from a small research group to a multidisciplinary and international team with several principal investigators.
3. According to you, what are the most exciting developments in your research field?
Let’s be trendy! The approval of at least two mRNA vaccine against Covid-19. The use of lipid carrier as a delivery system is crucial for their delivery and efficacy.
4. What is the best piece of professional advice you have received and from whom?
A former colleague gave me a useful advice. You don’t choose the people with whom you are working. You must get along with your colleagues to have smooth human relationships and focus only on science.
5. Would you change anything about your career path if you could start over?
I would not change anything. I have been so lucky to do the job I dreamed of when I was a teenager. I enjoyed being a researcher, a professor and a team leader. I liked the multidisciplinary research in advanced drug delivery. I enjoyed mentoring young PhD students and seeing post-doc growing into independent PI.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is starting their scientific career?
A scientific career is wonderful but tough. You need many skills e.g. multidisciplinarity, creativity, scientific integrity, dynamism, leadership, networking, communication, management, business… I would give three advices i) select a topic that is scientifically challenging, useful for patient and that you enjoy ii) define clearly your priorities and rationales iii) choose a lab that is known for excellence in science as well as a good working atmosphere.
7. How do you manage a healthy balance between work and personal life?
When my boys were young, I had the impression that I constantly needed to equilibrate the balance between work and family life. Time spent with the family was so precious. Now, they are grown up. My husband and I have more free time for our-selves and the balance is easier to reach. However, with the homeworking, the confinement and winter, I currently find it difficult maintain this equilibrium.
8. What do you enjoy doing outside of the lab? What are your hobbies/interests?
I enjoy time spent with my family and friends. I enjoy gardening, reading and going to the opera, concerts and exhibitions. I regularly play golf and hike. There are so many thing I would like to do when I retire.
9. Why would you advise scientists to become CRS and Local Chapter members and what are the membership’s benefits?
Network, in particular international network, is mandatory to lead a successful scientific career. The CRS is the major scientific society in the field of drug delivery. Every PhD student should attend at least one annual meeting. The local chapter is a good opportunity to get to know researchers within a reasonable distance for easy collaborations.