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Success stories

A new synthetic biology research team at Genopole bringing solutions to the major challenge of biological production

Andrew Tolonen, American researcher, was the laureate of Genopole’s 2022 Atige program and created his own research team.
More on the ATIGE program >

Andrew TOLONEN, Genomics Metabolics, Genoscope

After a first five-year stay in France at Genoscope as a CNRS Chair of Excellence obtained in 2011, Andrew returned to the United States for positions first at MIT and thereafter in a biotech. Today, thanks to his position as a CEA researcher and the financial support of his Atige grant, he is back in France, at Genopole, with his own research team in Genoscope’s Genomics Metabolics mixed research unit.

🎙 Listen to the podcast with Andrew Tolonen (in French): 🎙


A team growing in a fertile environment of local competencies

Andrew Tolonen Andrew Tolonen brings the newly-acquired knowledge and enthusiasm of young researchers to his team, particularly the students in the University of Évry-Paris Saclay’s Systems and Synthetic Biology Master 2 program (mSSB), created with Genopole support in 2008, and the former leaders of the Évry teams having participated in the renowned, international, synthetic biology competition iGEM.

Paul Weimer, Genomics Metabolics, GenoscopePaul Weimer, mSSB student, (Systemic and Synthetic Biology) intern in Tolonen’s team, and leader of the Évry-Paris Saclay team carrying the Genopole-University of Évry colors at the iGEM competition held October 2022 in Paris:
After having led the Évry iGEM team in 2022, taking the deep-dive into synthetic biology with the mSSB program seemed only natural. Because I’m particularly interested in metabolic engineering and its applications, I immediately contacted Dr. Tolonen (who was a 2022 IGEM team counselor), whose team is specialized in metabolic engineering for the production of biofuels from plant biomass.
Working and growing daily in this team is very enriching, not only for the quality of the research being done, but also for the excellent team spirit shared among my colleagues. And Genoscope is an exceptional research institution particularly for genomics, biochemistry and synthetic biology. I hope to be lucky enough to carry out my thesis within the team and/or Genoscope.

Ali Khazem et Magali Boutard, Genomics Metabolics, GenoscopeAli Khazem, mSSB student (Systemic and Synthetic Biology) and intern in Tolonen’s team with a Master 2 Grant from Genopole:
This year, I have learned so much from the interdisciplinary courses in the mSSB program in Systems and Synthetic Biology. I have also come to appreciate how much the research at the Evry Genopole cherishes the talent and innovation of ambitious individuals, regardless of their backgrounds. It is my honor to be part of this community and to receive a grant from Genopole for my Master’s internship. I am looking forward to learning new approaches in synthetic biology during my internship, which will bring me a step closer to my goal of starting a biotech venture.”

Tom Zaplana, Genomics Metabolics, GenoscopeTom Zaplana, second-year PhD student in Tolonen’s team and leader of the Évry-Paris Saclay 2019 iGEM team:
My thesis subject is particularly interesting to me because of its pertinence in issues that we will need to face in the coming decades. My focus is on the optimization of novel fermentation products (mainly biofuels) in Clostridium phytofermentans.

Industrialized Clostridia is a niche market and we’re one of a handful of teams working with C. phytofermentans, which means that every small success is a big step ahead for the laboratory.
My post-thesis perspectives include working in R&D or in private-sector industry on subjects related to synthetic biology.

Ali Khazem and Magali Boutard, Genomics Metabolics, GenoscopeMagali Boutard, senior technician (CEA) at Genoscope since 1999.
« I’m lucky enough to work with young people at the point of technology. I think my contribution to them is the work experience I’ve acquired since the sequencing of chromosome 14 at Genoscope in 1999 within the international Human Genome Project. I hope to be able to help them advance. »

Andrew Tolonen's Atige team within the Genomics Metabolics research unit at Genoscope
From left to right: Andrew Tolonen, Tom Zaplana, Ali Khazem, Magali Boutard, Paul Weimer.


Andrew works in the fields of synthetic biology and genetic engineering to advance the growth of novel, biological manufacturing methods with the aim of ensuring more sustainable industries and economies.

Discover the team’s work

  • More on the Atige financial grant program

    ATIGe: The “Genopole Thematic Actions Incentive” or Atige grants give researchers the means they need to join an academic laboratory at Genopole and create a new research team.
    Atige contributes to the emergence of future scientific leaders and new research themes at the biocluster.

    For more information >>>

With the support from
Région île de France