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Innovate for an environmental exposure measurement system

CEA-Leti is looking for a high-level junior researcher that will impulse a new dynamic on the environmental exposure (exposome) measurement topic and be the manager of his/her groundbreaking research project in phase with local teams.

SCIENCE IMPULSE is the brand new research program launched by CEA Tech to bring great scientific ideas of young researchers to life in line with proposed technological challenges.

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The notion of exposome was proposed in 2005 by Christopher Wild in the review article « Complementing the Genome with an “Exposome”: The Outstanding Challenge of Environmental Exposure Measurement in Molecular Epidemiology ». So, the exposome can be defined as the sum of all exposures to environmental factors experienced by the human organism from birth to the end of life that may de facto affect its health status. Therefore, it is related to a wide variety of factors including societal ones, physical fields (electric and electromagnetic fields), biological and vegetal objects (bacteria, pollens…) as well as chemicals (pollutants, additives, pharmaceutics…). In particular, a salient aspect of environmental exposure deals with exogenous (bio) chemical factors directly (soil, air or water quality) or indirectly (biologically or industrially processed food) associated with the human environment. However, at the exception of few well known examples (mercury, benzene, bis-phenol A, viruses, bacteria…), the impact of environmental exposure on human health remains diffuse (the number of elements at risk is extremely large) and poorly known. Indeed, it is easy to draw a parallel with radiotoxicity in the sense that exposure to environmental contamination present in low doses produces measurable effects at the chronic level only after a more or less long (and patient dependent) latency period. With regard to the degradation of our environment associated to the increasing pollution of air, water and soil, the global warming, the scarcity of water resources and population growth, environmental exposure monitoring is becoming an essential task in order to feed large-scale epidemiological studies that will provide a better understanding of its impact on health. Currently, parsimonious controls satisfy most of the regulatory demands around environment monitoring. On the other hand, for food quality assessment, most of the relevant tests are centralized within analytical labs and are based on tedious laboratory works. Due to the aforementioned factors that will increase the pressure on our environment quality, regulation will probably evolve from parsimonious, low frequency and localized control toward the deployment of connected systems that will enable decentralized real time monitoring of the environmental exposure. However, environmental exposure monitoring is a highly difficult task due to the complexity of the surveyed / controlled matrices and to the high dilution of exposition factors.

Thereby, monitoring human exposure is a key challenge for the future generations that requires the development of ambulatory miniaturized systems combining collection, sampling, preparation, detection, global positioning and data transmission. These devices will be capable of measuring / detecting in field and in real time pollutants, pathogenic species (viruses, fungi spores, toxins and bacteria), allergens, endocrine disruptors or emergent (potentially harmful or carcinogenic) substances. As mentioned, environmental exposure monitoring implies a multidisciplinary approach for which sample collection / preparation and species detection remain key challenges. For example, the detection of pathogenic species such as bacteria, viruses and fungi spores is a key challenge for which automated collection and preparation represent the technological bottlenecks and fix the monitoring frequency. As well, the temporality and the quality of pollutants monitoring is generally dictated by the preconcentration step due to the dilution of the organic species in soils and water. In such a context, the CEA Tech’s research institute, CEA-Leti has already developed some advanced monitoring tools embedding sample preparation and detection steps that fulfill the needs of food industry regarding quality control but that still require further development to reach full automation of the monitoring process.

This project aims at providing solutions to overcome the current bottlenecks of environmental exposure monitoring in one of the four aforementioned compartments that are air, water, soil and food. CEA-Leti has a strong expertise in the development of miniaturized components enabling micro-gravimetric, micromechanical, optical, photonic, electrical or electrochemical detection of biological or molecular targets of interest. Moreover, CEA-Leti is involved in the development of complete systems embedding these detection components within complex analytical chain that includes sample preparation and target pre-concentration steps. Finally, CEA-Leti has a great expertise in data processing and transfer that are key elements for localized survey of the environment. Working on the exposome, and more particularly on the collection and detection of exposure targets, requires the development of such advanced tools with a transdisciplinary approach, which could be achieved through the richness of the research environment offered by CEA Tech.

The ambition of CEA-Leti, through the recruitment of a high-level junior researcher, aims at impulsing a new dynamic on the emerging field of environmental exposure, and further exposome, with the development of advanced generic ambulatory and miniaturized analytical systems. The candidate will beneficiate from previous developments done at CEA-Leti but should aggregate the researches made in the different departments around a transversal and structuring project that will develop a research methodology to fulfill the future challenges associated to the exposome.

In such a context, CEA-Leti is looking for a high-level junior researcher that will take in charge the development of an advanced system dedicated to ambulatory detection of environmental exposure. The candidate will be the principal investigator of the project and should present high capabilities at working in a multidisciplinary field with multidisciplinary teams issued from different departments of CEA-Leti.

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