Medpace is excited to welcome Alexia Daoust, PhD, to Medpace Core Laboratories in Lyon, France. Dr. Daoust is a neurobiologist with over seven years of experience in leading and managing complex, high-level research projects. She joins Medpace as a Project Manager in the Medpace Imaging Core Laboratory. Click here to learn more about Medpace expansion initiatives across Europe.
We asked Dr. Daoust about what attracted her to the Medpace model and where she thinks the innovations in the field of imaging will be.
Tell us a little about your education and background that made you a good fit to lead the Medpace Imaging Core Lab project management team in Lyon?
I have a technical education starting with a license in biochemistry, cellular biology, and physiology. I worked as a laboratory technician in parallel to my studies. I decided to continue with university education and obtained a master’s degree in neurobiology. Brain function and physiology captured my interest and imaging became apparent as the best tool for learning more about these topics. Initially, I worked in PET imaging to develop a new serotoninergic radiotracer, mostly to target 5-HT1A receptors implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease. This led to a PhD in biophysics focused on the development of manganese chloride as an MRI contrast agent for the brain, followed by 5 years of post-doctoral work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Washington DC, with Alan Koretsky, PhD, Scientific Director of National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). It was a wonderful experience where I was very independent and strongly developed my skills in project management, team management, and scientific writing. After completing my training at NIH, I decided to return to my home in Lyon France and to switch to clinical trials research and translate my knowledge and background to translational research.
During your 5 years at NIH you worked with some of the highest field MR imaging systems in the world. How does this background prepare you for leading clinical research trials with imaging biomarkers?
At the NIH, I discovered the potential that molecular imaging has in terms of diagnostic and treatment. New, targeted biomarkers such as antibodies, peptides, and nanoparticles are very promising. I also saw the limits; for example, high field strength MRI systems have significant performance limitations, functional MRI is difficult to interpret and subjective, hyperpolarized MRI is not showing any relevant advantage compared to PET. From this experience, I gained a technical point of view about which imaging modality and acquisition strategy is best suited for specific clinical trial applications.
What attracted you to Medpace and the Imaging Core Lab from your work in a small biotech start-up company?
Medpace is a growing company showing a strong potential to support clinical trials. The imaging core lab is very promising, from my point of view, as new biomarkers are coming to the market using more and more complex imaging protocol, such as targeted radiotherapy, targeted drug delivery, and gene therapy. Having worked for a small biotech, I learned every aspect of biotech corporate management, from budgeting, marketing, and sales, to overall organization. But when you work on all these different aspects, you lose focus on the scientific questions which is where my passion lies. Medpace is very efficient, as all procedures are standardized allowing consistency and therefore accelerating clinical development. As a scientist working in this environment, I have the opportunity to put all of my technical and scientific knowledge into action in a framework that is efficient and standardizes processes to provide consistent data to support clinical trial endpoints.
Can you tell us a little about your vision of the future in diagnostic imaging in terms of new types of imaging agents on the horizon and FMT diagnostic agents for personalized surgery?
The future of diagnostic imaging is going to multifunction imaging agents. For example, a basic contrast agent such as microbubble (for ultrasound) that is FDA approved, can be coated with antibodies and filled with a drug or a gene in order to perform targeted drug or gene delivery. This concept can be applicable to all imaging systems and has several advantages:
- Use of an already FDA approved agent, so a clinical trial of the customized agent can move faster and cost less
- The patient receives only one product for both diagnostic and treatment purposes, health risks are lower and follow-up can be less expensive with a multi-function agent
- Less human error with multi-imaging diagnostics
- Fluorescent molecular imaging to assist surgery is also going the same way, with new contrast agents able to target specific cancer tissues.
Medpace Core Labs are comprised of cardiac safety and core imaging for a broad range of therapeutic areas. Our integrated core labs provide an end-to-end suite of global imaging services to enhance and expedite biopharmaceutical and medical device development. Learn more about Medpace Imaging Core Labs