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Max Malacria: committed to the max!

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Max Malacria: committed to the max!

Max Malacria

Max Malacria runs the Paris Institute of Molecular Chemistry (IPCMNouvelle fenêtre), which opened in January 2009. This research body is affiliated to UPMC and the CNRS and includes 12 teams of scientists specialized in organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and mass spectrometry. Research, teaching, evaluation, presidency of scientific associations… Max Malacria fires on all cylinders, fuelled by his passion for research.


Why was the IPCM created?

I wanted to unite all Jussieu’s molecular chemistry teams and the chemistry departments of the neighboring schools by associating mass spectrometry for small molecules, organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry. Two ENSCPNouvelle fenêtre (École nationale supérieure de chimie de Paris) laboratories are also going to join us via a research federation once we have moved definitively into the institute’s own premises. There we will have better access to the major equipment that we need and will be able to benefit from scientific exchanges which are extremely motivating.

How do you link organic and inorganic chemistry?

The weekly seminars that we organize – and which have met with major success – are administered by the doctoral school of molecular chemistry (ED 406). As this school includes organic chemists, biochemists and inorganic chemists, the seminars enable us to better understand the themes on which everyone works and to develop interactions and joint projects between teams. Some have already been fruitful for the IPCM. In particular, we have succeeded in fabricating mixed molecules which inhibit certain enzymes, kinases, in a novel way. This gives hope for the development of a new generation of cancer drugs.

Is medicine the field that you are aiming for in terms of applications?

We are becoming more and more interested in health questions. We are going to create a new team called “medicinal chemistry”, made up of four existing teams from this laboratory. In 2010, we shall hire a professor to be in charge of federating them and orienting research towards issues of pharmaceutical chemistry, in close association with industrial partners. Nonetheless, our research themes are vast and will continue to grow. For example, we are recognized for our expertise in catalysis. Our goal is to make this procedure, which usually uses metal derivatives of palladium, platinum, cobalt and gold, more economical.

You work in close partnership with a lab from the University of Pittsburgh. What are you working on?

Free radicals have been an important research theme for a long time. The fact that they are generated from organo-tin, a neurotoxic chemical mediator, limits their potential application in pharmaceutical synthesis. For the last 20 years, several groups of scientist have been trying to find a palliative for the use of this compound. With this American laboratory, we have found a way to form radicals using boronic derivatives. This proves to be much more compatible with the rules of “green” chemistry.

You have undertaken several different roles in your field; isn’t it a bit much?

Yes, as well as being a member of the Institut Universitaire de France and professor at UPMC, I am in charge of chemistry at the AERESNouvelle fenêtre (agency for the evaluation of research and higher education). I spend two days a week on this, setting up audit committees. I am convinced of the importance of the rigorous and objective evaluation of research, such as is practised in the US, England and Germany. The administration necessary to set this up is fairly heavy, but it seems crucial to me to prioritize values on a scientific basis. We must position ourselves at the national level and, in the interests of our community, at the international level. That is why I am also president of the editorial committee of the European Journal of Organic Chemistry and head of the European Symposium of Organic Chemistry’s scientific committee… I am not accumulating these activities for my own glory, but to be effective and try, as long as I am still dynamic, to stay active in my profession and serve the interests of my younger colleagues.



10/11/09