University of Namur, Belgium

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Full name

Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix/University of Namur

Key contact

Dr Olivier Toussaint


The Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (University of Namur) consists of six faculties (Law, Medicine, Sciences, Arts and Economics, Computer Science) with an academic and scientific staff of more than 600. Research has priority status being present in the most varied domains. Basic and applied research is conducted with links to specific applications, especially in partnership with private companies or public regional, federal or supranational institutions.

Olivier Toussaint is Research Associate of the Belgian FNRS.   He is contractor of an Integrated Project on genomics of human ageing (LSHM-CT-2004-503270) and is member of its ethics board. His laboratory’s proteomics engineer (M. Dieu) identified the trypanosome lytic factor of serum (Nature 2003, 422: 83-7) and identified 30 biomarker proteins involved in senescence (FEBS Lett 2002, 531: 499-504) and age-related changes of abundance of proteasome subunits (Int J Biochem Cell Biol 2003, 35: 728-39).

Toussaint participates in an Integrated Project on proteomics of human ageing (LSHM-CT-2005-518230, 2006-11). O.T. runs the European Coordination Action LINK-Age (LSHM-CT-2005-513866) in molecular gerontology, comprising four 100-person high-level conferences, two 30-person summer schools, 4-month exchanges of researchers, topic research groups (  Toussaint is also coordinator of the FP7 Coordination and Specific Support Action ‘WhyWeAge’, which will establish a roadmap for molecular biogerontology,   It is a key instrument in the organisation of research into ageing integrating molecular biogerontology with the other disciplines of gerontology. (**)

He coordinated a Shared-Cost Action on functional genomics in human ageing (Functionage, QLRT-2001-00310, 2002-4).  Toussaint participated as expert in several meetings of the European Forum on Population Ageing.

In the project ‘Senegene’, sponsored by the Region of Wallonia, Toussaint coordinates a €3million project where a population of aged blood donors characterized by different levels of healthiness is recruited in order to perform transcriptional, proteomic and functional studies, namely on T lymphocytes. In cooperation with that project, a fully automated culture station under physiological O2 atmosphere has been designed and built by civil engineers in close relationship with biologists. This system allows study of the stress response of cells from donors of different ages, namely the induction of senescence by stress. Toussaint‘s laboratory expertise in molecular biology allowed for the development of a new technology of DNA arrays and establish a company which became Eppendorf’s worldcenter on genomics, allowing development of low-density DNA arrays and transcription factor DNA-binding assays which Toussaint is using in research. The reliability of Eppendorf’s arrays is recognised in a multi-centre validation study (Nat Biotechnol 2006, 24 :1151-61). Our expertise in in vitro toxicology led to incorporation of Straticell in Feb. 2005. This new company’s asset reached 750,000 € in Dec. 2006. Straticell is a SME focussed on reconstructed epidermis and epithelia in general. It sells tissue and performs outsourced contracts of toxicological testing of natural and synthetic products such as nanoparticles (ex : J Pharm Pharmacol 2006, 58, 1577-83).

From year 2000 onwards Toussiant published 51 Medline®-referenced publications on the interactions between exposure to short acute sublethal stress (oxidative agents, ethanol, UVB, etc.) and cell senescence.  He coined ‘stress-induced premature senescence’ (SIPS) (EMBO J. 2000, 19 :1929-34). His total impact factor is > 230.  Toussaint was invited to give 40 invited talks at conference including two Gordon Conferences, two Euroconferences and an EMBO Workshop.  Toussaint co-organized two Euroconferences on Biological Ageing (2000 & 2002) and co-organized an EMBO Workshop Molecular Gerontology (1999).  Toussaint served as peer-reviewer in 30 international journals and many funding agencies at American, European and National European level USA, Europe (UK, Austria, France, Belgium).