In this exclusive interview, learn more about Dr. Leroux and his innovative contributions to the field of bioconjugate chemistry.

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Bioconjugate Chemistry and the ACS Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering present the 2023 Bioconjugate Chemistry Lectureship Award, which recognizes the contributions of an individual who has made a major impact working at the interface between the synthetic and biological worlds.

This year’s recipient is Dr. Jean-Christophe Leroux, full Professor in Drug Formulation and Delivery and head of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich.

Headshot of Dr. Jean-Christophe Leroux
Dr. Jean-Christophe Leroux

"Professor Leroux is an innovative leader in the field of drug delivery, where his research group has made numerous advancements in clinical translation in this space,” says Theresa Reineke, Editor-in-Chief of Bioconjugate Chemistry. “We are very excited he has been selected as the 2023 Bioconjugate Chemistry Lectureship Awardee.”

The award will be presented at ACS Fall 2023 in San Francisco, from August 13-17. Leroux will be presenting a lecture as part of the Bioconjugate Chemistry Lectureship Symposium at the meeting, along with other prominent researchers in the field. Time, date, and location of the Lectureship Symposium will be announced at a later date.

Read the Interview with Dr. Leroux

What advances has your group made in the past five years?

I believe that the most important contribution of our laboratory lies in the area of biodetoxification and sequestration of extracellular targets. Over the years, we have developed various polymer- and lipid-based therapeutics aimed at treating diseases such as celiac disease, hepatic encephalopathy, and soft tissue calcification disorders. Some of these systems are being evaluated in clinical trials. The clinical translation of our findings is indeed an important component of our activities, although I am personally more interested in fundamental research. Currently, thanks to an ERC Advanced Grant, we are trying to gain insight into DNA trafficking inside the cytoplasm in order to design more efficient protein-based gene delivery systems.

What advice would you give to students who aspire to be where you are now?

I do not like so much to give advice because everyone is different. Starting a career in academia today is both very exciting and quite challenging. Getting funding is becoming more and more difficult, and there is pressure to publish high-impact findings. What I have learned during my career is that one should be guided by curiosity and not hesitate to step into unknown territory. Intuition can be a good thing. I also think it is important to address relevant scientific questions and conduct research to advance a field, not just to publish manuscripts. In this respect, I would recommend the excellent book entitled "The Code Breaker," which narrates the discovery of gene editing through the biography of one of its co-inventors, Jennifer Doudna, who I found very inspiring. Lastly, the lab team is also extremely important. You have to hire motivated people and create a pleasant and stimulating working environment.

What do you consider to be the most important advances in bioconjugate chemistry recently?

This is quite a difficult question as I believe that there are many interesting bioconjugate systems that have recently been reported in the literature. However, in my opinion, what I find most exciting is the development of new approaches and characterization tools that help better understand the mechanism and fate of bioconjugates both at the cellular level and in vivo. One can think of the incorporation of DNA barcodes in drug delivery systems or the engineering of cells bearing specifically located tags that generate a signal when encountering the delivered payload. I think the research that is currently being generated with such tools will allow us to design the bioconjugates of tomorrow.

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