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[Summer series] Lucile Anthore-Dalion - Molecular cuisine

Lucile Anthore-Dalion, post-doctoral fellow at the Organic Synthesis Laboratory of l'X, uses radical chemistry to develop innovative molecular assemblies.

She had always wanted to “take up medicine”. However, in her first year of post-secondary studies, Lucile Anthore-Dalion discovered chemistry and has stuck with it ever since. At 19, she ranked 8th in the Chemistry Olympiad and met research scientist Samir Zard who would become her mentor. Barely two years later, she had him as a professor in her 2nd year of the Ingénieur Polytechnicien program. “He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He transmits his passion in very lively courses which he sprinkles with anecdotes”, Lucile Anthore-Dalion recalls. She did her 3rd year research project with him and then her doctoral dissertation in chemistry.

Radical chemistry to innovate

As a postdoctoral fellow at the the Organic Synthesis Laboratory of École Polytechnique, Lucile Anthore-Dalion has maintained her interest in health issues, intent as she is on using chemistry to “improve pharmaceutical research”. For the last three years, she has been working on new reactions to create innovative bonds between different elements. To do so, she uses radical chemistry, which is faster but reputedly more difficult to control than ionic chemistry, and she has been focusing in particular on xanthate chemistry. Xanthate compounds constitute a rich source of various types of radicals which, by intervening in the process of molecular association or modification, lead to reactions that are difficult – if not impossible – to produce with conventional methods.

Not only is the chemistry of xanthates innovative in nature, it also offers a number of advantages: mild reaction conditions, the absence of toxic metals, high selectivity and tolerance to many chemical functions. For her thesis, Lucile Anthore-Dalion concentrated on the applications of this method to ketone synthesis. “This major functional group in organic chemistry is found in a large number of natural products such as cortisone or camphor, but its interest here is mainly as an intermediate in the synthesis of natural products, be they pharmaceutical, cosmetic or agrochemical”, says the researcher who enjoys “trying to explain what nature does”.

Laureate of the L'Oréal - UNESCO grant

Her research opens up access to new chemical structures thanks to low-toxic, efficient and low-waste reactions, which reduce the environmental impact of synthetic chemistry. For this work, Lucile Anthore-Dalion received recognition and support as one of the 30 laureates in 2016 of the “L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards”  that promote high quality research conducted by women scientists around the world. “It is above all the work of the entire team of École Polytechnique’s Organic Synthesis Laboratory that deserves this award”, comments the young researcher who plans to join the CNRS one day.

Find all the portraits of researchers of our summer series, here.