ANSES portraits: women in science
To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, six of the women who contribute to science at ANSES talk about their work.
The team I manage assesses the risks of animal diseases
I am a veterinarian by training and have a PhD in cellular biochemistry. I have been working at ANSES since 2010 and am currently Head of the Unit for the assessment of risks associated with animal health, welfare and nutrition, and vectors.
I manage a multidisciplinary team of scientists who work on a daily basis to protect public health. We are tasked with assessing the risks associated with major animal diseases in French livestock, wildlife and pets. We work with experts from our committees and working groups, as well as scientists from the ANSES laboratories. We are often called on during health crises, a recent example being avian flu. In addition, our work on vectors – such as ticks and mosquitoes – enables us to combat many diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. We are also very active in the area of animal welfare, and have proposed a definition that includes the mental state of animals. Lastly, we contribute to assessments of animal feed in terms of health risks to animals, humans and the environment.
My job is to enhance the Agency's expert appraisals with knowledge of socio-economic analysis
I am an economist and Deputy Director of ANSES's Social Sciences, Economics & Society Department. I am also in charge of socio-economic analyses. These contribute to a better understanding of health and environmental risks, and their implications for different categories of stakeholders. They also enable the Agency's recommendations to be targeted more effectively. For example, we may be asked to assess the socio-economic determinants that play a part in certain risk situations, such as in our work on the victims of bedbug infestations. We also identify the levers and obstacles encountered by economic players wishing to substitute harmful products on the market, such as allergens in textiles. My job is also to document the socio-economic "burden" of certain risk situations. This may impact health or the environment. Lastly, we assess the potential consequences of actions to reduce or eliminate risk. These analyses present major methodological challenges, especially when they are forward-looking, as is often the case, or when they deal with controversial emerging topics.
I help verify that chemical products are safe
I have a PhD in chemistry and am currently the Head of the Unit for physico-chemical assessment and analytical methods within the Regulated Products Assessment Department at ANSES. My team assesses the identity and physico-chemical properties of chemical substances and products for which marketing authorisation applications have been submitted, and the methods used to analyse them. We provide the scientific data needed to assess the risks to human health or the environment. This scientific support function is very rewarding because it gives us the chance to interact with all the different people working in assessment.
Whether we use these products to disinfect our houses, repel pests or protect crops, we are all in contact with them, directly or indirectly. What motivates me in my job is the diversity of scientific issues we face, which are directly related to our daily lives.
I also like the opportunity to actively contribute to the development of new assessment criteria, which strengthen the knowledge requirements for chemicals. Lastly, my job allows me to be a player in the European and French regulatory system, where I can help verify the safety of chemical products that are sometimes widely used.
My task is to ensure the best possible welfare conditions for animals, as well as their health
I am in charge of coordinating the welfare activities within ANSES, where I am also a scientific advisor. I aim to consider animal welfare as a fundamental dimension of modern animal husbandry, whether intensive or extensive. It is no longer a case of trying to adapt the animals to the farming conditions, but rather to adapt these conditions to the animals' needs and expectations. My work aims to ensure that farmed animals can express all their species-specific behaviours and experience positive emotions.
I am responsible for the strategic management of ANSES's research, expert appraisal and reference activities on animal welfare. I am directly involved in research projects that aim to study the impact of farming conditions on animal health and welfare, validate indicators to objectively assess their welfare, and limit the negative consequences on their welfare during slaughter. I am also active in European work: since 2015 I have been vice-chair of the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and since 2020 I have been responsible for the European Union Reference Centre for the welfare of poultry and other small farmed animals.
I help keep consumers safe from chemical contaminants in food
I trained as a chemical engineer and am Head of the National Reference Laboratory for trace metal elements in foodstuffs of animal origin. An important part of my work is to develop knowledge about food contamination by trace metals and their constituent chemical species. We also study their possible transformation during cooking, which can modify their toxicity. Contamination can come from various sources, such as environmental pollutants, agriculture, industry or certain food production processes. The analytical methods we develop enable us to verify that foods comply with European standards.
Our work contributes to estimating consumer exposure to contaminants and introducing appropriate management measures. This may involve reducing regulatory thresholds for contaminants in food at the European level, or making consumption recommendations. I also provide expertise to the competent authorities to respond to specific health situations. For example, during the Lubrizol factory fire in September 2019, I helped estimate the potential medium-term accumulation of contaminants in agricultural products.
I am developing vaccines for badgers against tuberculosis
A veterinary scientist by training, I joined ANSES in 2019 to work in the Nancy Laboratory for Rabies and Wildlife. Our teams specialise in the study of zoonoses, which are diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. We develop vaccines and diagnostic tests for badgers against tuberculosis, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis, in order to limit the risk of transmission to cattle. This is because vaccination of cattle against tuberculosis is not authorised in France and the disease is re-emerging, particularly in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Developing an oral vaccine in bait for wildlife requires decades of research and development, in partnership with industry. Because this is a chronic disease, studies take longer than for acute diseases. In addition, the study of tuberculosis requires specialised laboratories. Lastly, badgers are a complicated species to capture and study in captivity. I also work on carnivores, often wild ones, to assess their welfare and physiological and immune responses to major zoonotic diseases, such as echinococcosis and SARS-CoV-2.