Please tell us about your background: where you grew up, studied, and why you chose the field you did.
I am a passionate material scientist. I grew up in Rome, Italy, where I studied until receiving my PhD - a lazy student studying close to home back then! Since then I have relocated several times: first Switzerland, then France, Norway and now back in France. I have been traveling many kilometres (and on many airplanes!) to reconcile my passion for science with my personal life.
I chose to study material science after by chance, on a Saturday evening about 15 years ago, I viewed a TV broadcast by a famous Italian journalist—Piero Angela—that described the power and promise of materials science and of nanomaterials. My primary focus was the use of nanomaterials in medicine. And now, after living through years of scepticism regarding the practical utility of nanomedicine, I am very proud to see that the efforts of our community are literally saving the world from a pandemic, with the advent of novel lipid nanoparticle-based COVID-19 vaccines.
What does your current position entail? How does it tie in to your previous experience, and where is it going?
I am currently working for the Laboratoire National de Métrologie et d'Essais (LNE)—the French metrology institute—where my mission is to support development of advanced (nano)materials and drug products containing nanomaterials via measurement science and standards. Basically this means providing reliable methods to measure the properties of nanomaterials in the service of the scientific community, industry and regulators. For example, we are developing standards to detect the presence of nanomaterials in food, and also methods to test the safety and efficacy of innovative drug products containing nanomaterials.
During my PhD work I researched the effect of certain nanoparticles used as co-adjuvant for cancer treatment. There I realised that if we want to make a real impact, academia needs access to knowledge, controlled experiments and standards as a basis for developing reliable science data. If your goal is, as says the motto of one of my former employers (SINTEF, Trondheim, Norway), “technology for a better society”, you need to have complete confidence in your results. This is why I decided to invest my career in measurement science and best measurement practices applied to nanomaterials.
Our work on liposome analysis at CEA Grenoble with Wyatt’s Eclipse/DAWN system, and on LNP-mRNA analysis at SINTEF testing various multi-detector AF4 systems, will lead to the first approved MD-AF4 standard protocol for nanomedicines.
In what context did you first learn about light scattering and Wyatt instruments?
I learned about multi-angle light scattering coupled to asymmetric-flow field-flow fractionation (AF4-MALS) during my postdoctoral work in CEA Grenoble under the auspices of the European Nanomedicine Characterization Laboratory infrastructure (EUNCL). I had many wonderful “teachers” that introduced me to the beauty (and burdens) of the field-flow fractionation-related methods. My thanks to Isabelle AM Worms and Sylvie Motellier, Jeffrey Clogston (NCI-NCL-Frederick-USA), Luigi Calzolai and Dora Mehn (Joint Research Centre of the European Commission-Ispra)! My mission—to develop standard operating procedures and measurements standards for the community—started by developing a protocol to measure liposomal formulations on a Wyatt Eclipse™ FFF system.
My collaborations with Wyatt scientific experts have led to key publications and validated protocols for nanomedicine characterization.