Executive Dir. MGP
INRAE / MetaGenoPolis
"Curious, passionate, atypical, I take great pleasure in thinking differently to help everyone to sublimate their talents. To innovate is to make the impossible possible, to give life to your dreams", this is what you can read in Alexandre Cavezza’s Linkedin profile.
Silvana Maini interviewed him for NUTRA HORIZONS.
Dear Alexander, from your Linkedin profile I read: “Innovation is often born at the interface of different fields, hence the importance of cultivating multiple skills.” You’ve got a PhD in Chemistry (so we are colleagues), and a diploma as Pastry/and Chocolate maker (here we are not colleagues): may I say that curiosity is the engine of your life?
Yes, this is true! Important to have an holistic approach and to connect different disciplines. For me doing pastry is quite similar than doing chemistry. Being director of a research unit on microbiota is also a way to take care of your health and on the environment. Everything is connected!
From l’ Oreal to MetaGenoPolis: can you talk about your experience at l’Oreal and what about this change?
As a young chemist, I joined l’oreal as a researcher to design new cosmetic ingredients. Then I have developed there green chemistry because of my concerns on the respect of the environment. After launching the 1st green molecule in cosmetic in 2006 (Pro-Xylane (TM)), I evolved in project managment and then as PMO with many R&D stakeholders. I was deeply involved in cosmetic projects dealing with skin microbiota, hair care and hygiene. I had then the opportunity to have a position as Director of Metagenopolis searching on gut microbiota. Furthermore INRAE is deeply concern with substainable development which is very important for me.
Can you shortly describe MetGenoPolis and your vision?
See our website.
Metagenopolis is dedicated to understand the links between food, gut microbiota and health. We are using quantitative and functionnal metagenomic analyses (certified ISO 9001, and using high throughput analyses). We also have a fully automatized biobank with a capacity of 600 000 samples storage. We have a lot of industrials and academic research projects to understand the role of microbiota in health and nutrition.
Our vision is to make microbiota analysis a tool for our health: for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. For this we will soon launch a huge national project to analyze 100 000 people: the French Gut project!
Health Ingredients are rapidly growing in consumption and brands offer: matter of culture, communication, pandemic situation? How are these products commonly perceived today in your opinion?
My opinion is people need to be educated about the way they eat. Food is the first medecine, and it is very important to eat a lot of different things, rich in fibers (fruits, vegetable,...), less meat. They need to understand that a lot of chronic diseases (obesity, diabete II, MICI, ....) and neurological disorders (autism, Parkinson, Alzheimer, depression...) are linked to the bacteria in their gut, and then to their food. There is no magic ingredients but a way of life to follow !
Originally focused on our internal digestive process then the microbiome jumped on the skin. Can you comment?
Skin, vaginal, oral, gut microbiota are linked but we do not know yet exactely how. Cosmetic has jumped onto skin microbiota because this is a new marketing story, microbiota is on the top of the skin (so cosmetically acceptable J). However the technics used to analyse the skin microbiota (16S) is not very precise to transform this knowledge into efficient products to my opinion. One need much more scientific data to make revolutionary cosmetic products!
Recently a cosmetologist talking about the compulsive use that unfortunately we have to make of sanitizing gels has spoken of the harmful effects of these products on the microbiome of the skin. What do you think?
Yes. Those gels kills microorganisms (good ones and bad ones). So this is a balance between being protected against pathogens and killing our microbiota. This is the same balance with the question of having a shower evey day, or even by taking a lot of antibiotics.
All those procedures are killing without selectivity, all the microorganisms: good ones and bad ones.
On your web site I read that that your team includes a “Microbiome communication manager”: why this choice and what kind of work does he/she do?
Communication is key to tell to the people our recent scientific results on microbiota, to give our opinion on those subjects (eg: covid19 & microbiota) and to educate people on those matters. We will need also to communicate on our big project the french gut.
Again for the benefit of our readers who are obviously in the field of chemistry, can you briefly illustrate other areas in which you apply your research, your products?
As I said, our research works could find applications in food and health. So this could impact the way people eat: cook yourself as much as possible, by using a lot of vegetables/fruits/shell fruits. One needs to exercise also regularly, and try not to stress too much if you want to live as long as possible. Take antibiotics only if necessary.
Finally there is a great analogy with the world biodiversity and our gut microbiota: let’s try to keep them with a high diversity to ensure a good health for our planet and ourselves!