Interview with Alexandre Bretel – YEBN Networking Task Group Leader

  • You are now Task Group Leader of the Networking TG for the first time. As new task group leader, what are your goals and hopes for YEBN in 2019/20?

Our main objectives for this year are to find new biotechnology associations, new institutional partners and new sponsors. We hope to have partners and members of our network in all the countries of the European Union in the long term.  Partnerships are even being considered outside the European Union, such as in Turkey and Switzerland. We participate in several biotech events across Europe to create our network, such as in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, for the ENABLE Conference, or more recently at the “AI For Health” in Paris.

  • You have already made extensive experiences with different forms of associations. What, in your opinion, makes YEBN special?

I have a long experience in associations, and I think that what makes the difference with YEBN is the European dimension of the association, its great professionalism and the friendly atmosphere that prevails there. We are also fortunate to be able to travel all over Europe to make ourselves known or to discuss with our members. There are few associations that offer so many opportunities.

  • What are your long-term visions for YEBN?

YEBN has the potential to become the European reference for young biotechnology researchers, and to act as a catalyst for young students to start their careers. We are working to ensure that more and more young students, researchers, laboratories and universities can exchange opportunities that are best suited to them.

  • What are you working on in your job?

I am working on the ethics of artificial intelligence, and I plan to start training combining medicine and artificial intelligence. I would like to support health professionals using artificial intelligence on the ethical aspect. The number of start-ups working to improve health is constantly increasing. There is a real need to answer their specific bioethical issues. 

  • What is your favourite task in the lab? Is there a task in the lab that you dislike?

At the moment, I am creating an ethical ontology, listing the usual concepts of this field of philosophy, their relationships, their authors, and the philosophical texts associated with them. I also seek to link them to the reports of the Ethics Committee of the National Centre for Scientific Research. It’s an exciting job! I would say that the least interesting aspect is to add the concepts to the database that I already studied during my studies in philosophy.

  • Please paste a lab humour cartoon in the space below which fits your character the most
  • What would your job be if you wouldn’t work in life sciences?

I will focus on the ethics of artificial intelligence, but more related to space activities. It’s another one of my passions. I think there is a way to combine it with my life sciences activities!

  • What do you do in your free time?

I am in a debate association, where it is both form and content that is assessed. We debate in front of an audience on all societal issues, and we play the role of government or opposition. It’s sometimes stressful, but very entertaining! I also participate fictional trials. It is a hobby that indirectly benefits my activity at YEBN!

  • What are your plans and goals for the future? Would you rather work in academia or industry?

I would like to become a consultant in the ethics of artificial intelligence, more specifically in the field of health and biotechnology. I expect to work in both the academic and industrial sectors. We live in an era where the different fields of research are converging, whether in artificial intelligence or biotechnology. New questions arise, particularly about what can be done with the possibilities offered by genome sequencing or the possibility of modifying the human body. I think that it is essential to accompany the actors of these transformations in their bioethical reflection.

  • Would you like to live abroad and if yes, where and why?

I like the idea of seizing new job opportunities and discovering new cultures. As my professional projects, it is probable that I will travel all over Europe, or even further away, to help my future clients. I’m open to all possibilities. Who knows what the future holds for us, maybe one day they’ll need my services in space!

  • Which is the most important thing you’ve learned until now and that you would give as an advice to others?

This may be an idea that is often repeated, but you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks, and to seize opportunities when they arise. If you take every opportunity available to you, you have the possibility to radically change your life. Even if you make mistakes, it is better to make them now than later. After all, experience is only the name we sometimes give to our mistakes. So get inspired and get involved!