Romane Thouenon, a doctoral student involved in research and with young researchers

Romane Thouenon, a young researcher at Institut Imagine, is a doctoral student in the Human Lymphohematopoiesis Laboratory directed by Isabelle André, and President of the Young Researchers Association of Institut Imagine, YR2I. Two objectives and passions drive her career and actions: to provide answers to patients suffering from hereditary immune deficiencies that remain undiagnosed to this day, and to create links and mutual support between young researchers.

Published on 18.05.2021

Imagine Institute

I knew from elementary school that I would be a researcher, although I didn't know what that really meant at the time.  

Romane Thouenon, PhD student at Institut Imagine

What is your background?

 Throughout my schooling, I was interested in biology, teaching and research. I did a bachelor's degree in biology, first in Nîmes, where I come from, and then at the Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris. It is within the framework of my master's degree in immunology that I started an internship at Institut Imagine, in the human lymphohematopoiesis laboratory directed by Isabelle André. I developed my research project there, first as a master, then as a thesis, with Sven Kracker, research director in the team.

What are your research projects?

In general, our work focuses on the identification of genetic mutations in patients with inherited immune deficiencies, including B and T cell deficiencies. Our work involves both cohorts of patients and single cases.

The principle is as follows: we sequence the whole exome of patients with inherited immune deficiencies, for whom clinicians have not identified the mutation causing the disease. Among the potentially responsible mutant genes, we select one, according to its role, the literature and the discoveries, and then we proceed to the analysis and functional characterization of this gene, thanks in particular to the implementation of cellular and animal study models. In the framework of my thesis, I am working particularly on the IFR4 gene.

Our objective is to identify the gene responsible for the phenotype of the patients and thus to be able to make a diagnosis, which can then, in certain cases, lead to a therapeutic path.  

Romane Thouenon, PhD student at Institut Imagine

The characterization of these genes is important, on the one hand for the patients, who can put a name on their disease, but also for the scientific and medical community, to orient and accelerate research in the right direction.

What is the role of the Young Researchers of Institut Imagine Association and why did you choose to get involved?

I have always been a very social person and I believe in helping each other, in networks and in social ties. The PhD is a challenging but not easy period in a researcher's career. There is a lot of pressure and commitment during these three years, which are linked to the quality and quantity of publications. It is at this time that everything is at stake. It is then necessary to have opportunities for decompression, made all the more rare by the health crisis, and a common dynamic between doctoral students to pass this stage as serenely as possible.

YR2I's objective is to support young researchers at all levels, whether it be in the development of their career or their integration into the Institute and the scientific community.  

Romane Thouenon, PhD student at Institut Imagine

Our guiding principle is to foster a motivating work environment with a sense of connection and mutual support. This year, in spite of Covid, we wanted to maintain everything that could contribute to the social link, especially the Olympiads. We also maintain the annual YR2I Congress, on a qualitative virtual platform. The Congress is the ideal opportunity to present your research work in front of the entire Institute and a jury of researchers from the Institute, while remaining in a friendly environment.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the association's board: Valère Desmeure, Anne Chalumeau, Guillaume Mondon, Tifanie Blein, Boris Bessot, Alice Serafin, Grégoire Haouyi and Alexis Bertrand.

What are your plans after your thesis?

My dream is to become a research director and to be able to build a team with its own research projects. Immunology is the basis of my training and interests me a lot. At Imagine, I discovered and developed a great interest in genetic diseases. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than not knowing what your child or loved one is suffering from, and I would like to be able to contribute to bringing answers or at least leads to families affected by genetic diseases, which are often still without diagnosis. I would like to continue my work on genetic diseases affecting the immune system.