Chronicle of a deconfinement

Since Monday, May 11, 2020, Imagine's laboratories, platforms and offices have been gradually repopulating. This very gradual return could not have been done without an important preparation phase, and without the immense collective work and cooperation between all the teams and volunteers who set up the Business Resumption Plan.
Discover the behind-the-scenes of the deconfinement and the role played by each person.

Published on 26.05.2020

Imagine Institute

Since Monday, May 11, 2020, the on-site research projects that had to be put on hold have been relaunched step by step. This first phase of very gradual resumption of activity has as a prerequisite the safety of all. It could not have taken place without them.

They are, in particular, Laure Boquet, General Delegate, Cécile Bureau, Internal Services Manager, Anne-Marie Laurencine, Health, Safety and Environment Manager, the laboratory managers, Mickaël Ménager & Sigolène Meilhac, the prevention assistants, Christelle Lenoir, Bruno Estebe & Christelle Arrondel, Moussa Sy, Deputy Operations Manager, Stéphane Paillet, Operations Department Manager, Justine Brossard, Communications Manager, Emilie Resweber-Gouin, HR Manager, Nathalie Wuylens, Legal Manager and Marie de Bazelaire, in charge of the Activity Recovery Plan.

Take a look behind the scenes of Imagine's deconfinement.  

Safety and prevention above all

The safety of all at all times was the number one priority that guided our thinking and was a prerequisite for the reopening of the site to teams.

This major project required us to take into account and anticipate numerous problems. Unknown stocks and orders of masks, hydro-alcoholic solutions (SHA) and protective equipment, "in-house" production of SHA, possibilities of receiving personnel according to the phases, identification of the specific constraints of each area, teaching about respect for barrier gestures and sanitary instructions... safety mobilized many people and teams. In the forefront were Anne-Marie Laurencine, Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator, Cécile Bureau, Head of Internal Services, the Institute's prevention assistants (PAs), management, the operations department, the legal department, the HR department, communications, the directors of laboratories, platforms and departments, and a group of volunteers.

A working group entirely dedicated to this subject, accompanied by the prevention assistants/HSE relays and L2 referents, was on deck to ensure the supply of safety equipment, masks and SHA.

Cécile Bureau, Internal Services Manager

"The most complex part of the logistical and technical preparations for the reopening of the institute was the supply of PPE (individual protective equipment) and SHA (hydro-alcoholic solution), as there was a very high level of tension due to the health crisis.


During the lockdown, I was cycling through Paris to come to Imagine, and I discovered that a Parisian pharmacy had launched, in the middle of the street, a large-scale production of SHA. What a surprise, because of the lack of plastic containers, the SHA was packaged in wine cubes! Finally, this format was perfectly adapted to my bags and I was able to bring back 2 cubis of 5L.

The preparation of the PRA has been a real adventure, with a great surge of solidarity from the teams, the equipment group, the L2 referents, the PAs... Thank you all, your help was essential to ensure a safe recovery. And since May 11, I am happy to see the teams gradually returning to Imagine to resume their activities.

They were also responsible for identifying safety needs and issues throughout the building and proposing practices, instructions and training to ensure staff safety and prevent risks. With the help of a group of volunteers and the operations department, they are the ones who formalized the health instructions and installed the safety devices on the site.

Anne-Marie Laurencine, Health, Safety and Environment Manager

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we have been on alert. We knew that reopening the plant would require a lot of work. The HSE working group was an important part of the PRA, with a great deal to do. The HSE prevention assistants/relays and the L2 referents immediately responded and were of enormous help in working on the instructions, posters, their implementation on the site, and so on. The work done in such a short time is impressive. I would like to take this opportunity once again to thank all the people who helped us in this task, and who were incredibly supportive even from a distance.

"During this period I also exchanged a lot with other prevention officers from research centers, notably those from Cochin, INEM, HEGP and Cordeliers, who are in the same situation. It is important to have a network to help us in our search for information, protective equipment, or simply to exchange on the difficulties we encounter (which are often the same).

"Someone told me that this is the challenge of a lifetime for a person working in HSE, and she is right! Facing a risk that is new to everyone, and having to deal with it, is complex and pushes everyone to their limits. I receive many expressions of thanks, small gestures to thank for the work done, it is a pleasure. However, the work is not finished and we must remain vigilant".

Mickaël Ménager, Laboratory Director

mick_menager COVID

« During this preparation phase, I participated, among other things, in a group that thought about the implementation of new working conditions in confined spaces and type 2 and 3 laboratories. This involved many hours of videoconferencing, and a lot of brainstorming, in order to find conditions that would allow us to continue to work on human samples while taking no risks.

I was also involved in the implementation of new procedures for handling blood samples from COVID-19+ patients, which was a very exciting and scary experience.

Being at the forefront of SARS-cov2 research is a unique opportunity both scientifically and on a human level".

Christelle Lenoir, engineer, L2 referent/equipment/liquid nitrogen group

"As L2 referent, I have contributed, with several work groups, to adjusting the sanitary procedures so that the safety of our L2 users is ensured. From now on, every blood sample must be considered COVID + and that changes things. The procedures are heavier and more specific, we had to completely revise them in 2 to 3 weeks: reorganization of the SAS, purchase of protective covers for the centrifuges, purchase of protective materials (masks, gowns, sleeves...). I have also worked with Cécile Bureau to set up new procedures for deliveries in order to protect our agents, and I have also been working for several months on a vast project to reorganize our liquid nitrogen network in collaboration with Sthéphane Paillet, Cécile Bureau and Anne-Marie Laurencine.

This period was very special for all of us; we tried to be as useful as possible, while not being on site, and it was not always easy to foresee everything that needed to be put in place to ensure the safety of all. This was made possible thanks to the mobilization of the ITAs and researchers of our Institute who fulfilled their missions in record time: this collective work of preparation for the resumption of activity made it possible to find colleagues and to build something together. If I had to summarize, I would quote Mark Twain's phrase: "they didn't know it was impossible, so they did it."

Bruno Estebe, Engineer and Prevention Assistant

"With all the prevention assistants, we did our best to put in place the new safety instructions before the reopening on May 11. We had about a week to prepare all the new instructions and posters (telecommuting), then two days on site to put them in place in the institute" (May 6 and 7).

Affiche COVID

Coordinated by Anne-Marie Laurencine, we divided the work into three groups. With Maya Chrabieh, Marie-Claude Stolzenberg and Nathalie Pironon, we worked on the "stickers". They were intended to quickly state the instructions to be respected for each place in the institute (relaxation area, elevators, stairs, printer, L1, office, coffee area...). The aim was to convey the essential messages through simple visuals. Justine Brossard then took over to finalize the posters and provide us with the final versions.

On May 6th, with Tristan Felix and Marine Luka, we printed and laminated the posters while starting their installation. We quickly realized the magnitude of the task. The challenge was to have everything in place on the evening of Thursday, May 7, because the decontamination of the Institute was scheduled from Friday morning to Sunday evening. Without the help of many people to hang the 450 posters, including the communication department, Corinne Lebreton, Justine Boyer, Anna Pelet, Maya Chrabieh among others, we would not have finished in time. It was a real race against the clock! Not only for us, but for all the people who had been working for weeks to prepare the reopening. We went around and around so much in the institute to find all the places to put up the posters that I now know every corner of the building, which is handy!

It's during these moments that you really realize the size of the institute and the number of people working there! Concentrated on working in our own lab/department, we are not in direct contact with each person of the institute, but passing by each office, each lab, each room... We then see Imagine as a whole, as a unit! I am proud to have participated in preparing the institute for its reopening and ready to continue this collective work to ensure the gradual resumption of all research and care activities of the institute."

Christelle Arrondel, Engineer, L2 referent

"With Anne-Marie Laurencine, Cécile Bureau, Marine Luka, Mélanie Migaud, Karine Siquier, Sophie Thomas, Céline Banal in the working group dedicated to L2 instructions, we have worked on measures to be implemented or developed concerning SAS dressing, work in L2, installation of equipment under the PSM, work under the PSM, storage of equipment, waste management, and exit from L2. I am also currently working on the reorganization of the SAS with Corinne de Chapdelaine, Mickaël Ménager and Stéfania Musili (SAS, purchase of stackable boxes for the storage of gowns and overshoes) and on the reopening of the L2, with Maya Chrabieh and Mathieu Kurowska

For our team, it is important to restart cell culture and therefore to restart the CO2 incubators as soon as possible. We asked the L2 referents which users wanted the incubators to be restarted and a metrology control. For that we prepared sterile water for the restart, with the help of Moussa for the CO2, of about thirty incubators in the L2 of the Institute. On Friday, May 15 and Monday, May 18, we carried out the metrology control, the CO2 -O2 calibration, and the temperature of the CO2 incubators, and prepared several bottles of sterile water available for the L2 users.

I also carried out for the opening of Imagine the manufacturing of hydroalcoholic gel solution."

And all these instructions had to be centralized and made consistent, adapted to Imagine's visual identity and communicated to all. This part was led by Justine Brossard, communications officer, with the working group dedicated to securing the site.

Justine Brossard, Communication Officer

"This job has allowed me to discover a new part of the Institute and to work with new people. As the person in charge of internal communications, it is important to get to know everyone's work and daily life better.

We also had to adapt and increase the number of newsletters and information and sharing activities. Because, at a time when everyone was isolated, maintaining the link and knowing that the life of the Institute continued beyond the walls is all the more crucial.

I'm happy to see that these posters and stickers are gaining support and making it easier to follow safety instructions."

Affiches COVID

Make the site almost fully operational again

Once everyone's safety was assured, the recovery could not have taken place without meticulous technical, logistical and operational preparation of the building. The task is multiple and complex, including

  • The gradual, adapted and secure relaunch of the Institute's internal services, maintained at a minimum by Cécile Bureau during the Business Continuity Plan (BCP), and which are gradually resuming more fully: resumption of orders, deliveries, laundry, waste management...
  • The operation and functioning of the building, under the responsibility of Stéphane Paillet, also maintained in part during the BCP, have been rethought with, in particular, a new cleaning protocol, the decontamination of the ventilation system, and the general disinfection of the site.
  • A new organization of the building, with, for example, the reorganization of the collective spaces, of certain work areas, and the floor markings, to meet the necessary sanitary measures.

Stéphane Paillet, Head of the Operations Department

"In a very short period of time, we had to do everything we could to get the business up and running again in the best possible conditions. We took action on the ventilation system, and the building is now operating on fresh air. The entire ventilation network and the premises have been disinfected, which required numerous safety precautions, with the building cordoned off, while providing access under good safety conditions for essential activities such as the animal house and COVID research projects. I am thinking in particular of Frédéric Rieux-Laucat, who was present on the weekend of the decontamination and whom we protected from peroxidation!

We also ensured the supply of hand towels, wall-mounted SHA dispensers, wall-mounted contactless soap dispensers... Moussa also reorganized and carried out the floor markings in all the collective rooms while participating in maintenance operations, works and removals."

Moussa Sy, Assistant to the Operations Manager

"During the lockdown, I made sure that everything continued to run normally in the building and I helped the people who continued to work there. For the reopening, I helped organize the site with the teams in charge of the Business Continuity Plan and volunteers. For example, I had to install the common areas, the 7th floor, the separations and the floor markings to respect the safety distances, and stick the signage, especially on the first floor and on the Necker side. I also help to manage the L2s by handing over the CO2 on request, I supply disinfectant, hydro-alcoholic gel, soap, paper towels so that everyone is safe and has what they need.

Moussa Sy_terrasse

This period was rock&roll, with a lot of work. What wasn't easy was the solitude, I usually work in contact with people and there, seeing the building almost empty, it was not easy. But I was happy to do this for Imagine and all the people who work there, and I'm glad to see people coming back, it feels really good! 

Meeting an HR, legal and IT challenge

The resumption of activity is also a new development and an HR challenge, which requires a great deal of coordination with all of the Institute's teams, as well as with the HR teams of our supervisory bodies, in order to establish the phases of resumption of activity and the return of staff to work, to answer the HR questions and needs of each person according to each situation, to prepare the necessary certificates, and above all, to be attentive to each person and to adapt to each situation and to the phases of the epidemic and the recovery.

During the different phases of the AIP, staffing thresholds can be accommodated. These thresholds, essential to guarantee the safety of all, require coordination between all laboratory directors, platform managers and support services.

Emilie Resweber-Gouin, HR Manager

"In order to combine safety and resumption of activity, it was necessary for all of you to choose, prioritize and adapt the resumption of your research work, while respecting the number of staff we have set to resume safely and to ensure that everyone can understand the new safety instructions. It is difficult to limit the number of people who come to the lab because many of you want to resume your research. But it is essential that everyone can return to Imagine in the best conditions of safety and knowingly informed.

I have been on the ground to participate in the installation of all the devices aimed at guaranteeing the return of some of you, but I have also been much solicited to answer all the questions that you legitimately asked yourselves during this singular period, to reassure certain people, to inform about all the procedures, about the formalities put in place.

If I had to retain only one word, it would be adaptation: this period required us to review everything in an extremely short time, to rethink our practices, to deploy telework in a few hours. I have the impression that I have experienced a true condensation of everything that my activity can cover but in a short, very short time."

It is also a period of constant evolution in terms of laws and regulations, from a health and labor perspective.

Nathalie Wuylens, Legal Manager

"During this period, I kept a daily watch on the legislative and regulatory texts that specified the terms of the state of health emergency in order to extract the measures that the Institute had to put in place. I was also called upon within the framework of the PRA, to participate in several working groups for the implementation of security measures for the building and the personnel, for the management of service providers, the measures concerning the employees of the foundation and the actions to be taken concerning the legal aspects and the consequences of the situation on the contractual commitments of the Institute.

This is a new phase that we are currently going through, but which has made us aware of the good side of the technological tools at our disposal and allowing us to keep daily links with the teams, of the good side of teleworking allowing us to be fully involved in the actions to be carried out, but also of the enrichment inherent in sharing and exchanging ".


And the functioning of everyone's activities, especially the common rooms and L2, is ensured thanks to the involvement of the Institute's IT team, composed of Jérôme Flatot, Manager, and Eric Lemaur. In addition to having developed a reservation tool for the common rooms, they are the ones who have implemented everything so that the activities can be maintained in telework, from the PC orders, to the VPN network upgrade, to the data centralization for the PRA.

Coordinate all actions at the Institute level: the "SQUAD PRA"

The entire Business Recovery Plan (BRP) was orchestrated by a team, the "BRP SQUAD" (Marie de Bazelaire, Laure Boquet, Cécile Bureau, Stanislas Lyonnet, Sigolène Meilhac and Emilie Resweber-Gouin): it ensured that the process ran smoothly and that each step was in compliance.


Marie de Bazelaire, Director of Heroes for Imagine, in charge of the PRA

We knew one thing for sure: our Business Recovery Plan had to be based on co-construction and collective action to promote understanding and support. It was important to explain and involve.

Together, we drafted a Charter that became the basis of our individual and collective commitment. It has also been a formidable guideline for aligning missions and actions. Thus, all together we have experimented step by step with different systems: a gradual and controlled increase in power in compliance with the instructions of our supervisors.

Our signature "I take care of myself, I take care of others, I take care of Imagine" has been our driver, which is why we wanted it to be the signature of our internal campaign.


Sigolène Meilhac, Laboratory Director

"As part of the Squad, my modest mission included taking stock of the wishes of the research teams at the restart, coordinating them with institutional constraints, taking stock of the conditions for restarting the platforms, and coordinating them with the restart of the teams.

I attended meetings 2-3 times a week, in addition to presentations and discussions with team leaders and the entire Institute. The meetings of the "PRA Task Force" were very constructive, in order to find the middle line between multiple constraints. The permanent concern was to allow the restart of the research, taking into account the specificities of our projects.

Imagine has always been a wonderful professional environment, and the crisis has not affected the general spirit, where dynamics and scientific excellence are combined with benevolence, solidarity and responsibility on the part of everyone, and also the debate of ideas.


"This collective work has once again demonstrated the solidarity that reigns within our Institute. All these people have shown exemplary commitment, and without them, without their mobilization, their initiative, it would not be possible today to begin to gradually resume the activity. Imagine is above all a story of men and women committed to a cause, and the PRA illustrates this perfectly. And what a joy it was on May 11th to physically meet up with those who were present - and for the others we hope to do so again soon - in the atrium for the clap show", rejoices Laure Boquet, General Delegate of Imagine.


And also...innovate and have fun!

If the preparation phase for the reopening was intense, and required a lot of work in a very short time and uncertain conditions, it allowed us to develop innovation and creativity.

Thanks for example to Nathalie Borges, in charge of accounting and payroll at Imagine, but also a specialist in 3D objects in a personal capacity, who printed on a large scale the tactile push-buttons, which allow us not to touch the elevator buttons or the printers!

Thanks also to Editions Délicieuses who graciously provided meals to the teams present during the lockdown and now offer a dedicated catering service!