Henri-François RENARD, PhD

    As a child, I was already curious about everything and never tired of asking (too?) many questions. I remember that I received from Santa Claus a small plastic microscope and I was observing every drop of water or leaves from trees in my parents' garden. I was also very often building objects/machines in the garage or outdoor, where I could spend hours trying to apply my ideas. But who knew that these essential characteristics for a cell biologist (curiosity, observation and analysis capacity, creativity) would lead me to a lab 20 years later?

    My affinity for life sciences led me to the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium) where I completed a bachelor and then a master in bio-engineering sciences in 2006. During my master thesis, I had the opportunity to work on the purification and characterization of an archeal proton pump in the lab of Prof. Pierre MORSOMME at the Institut des Sciences de la Vie (UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium). And... nothing worked! One year of negative results. This could have disgusted me with science, but I realized I could easily take steps back and persevere. Pierre proposed me to stay in his lab for a PhD on a totally different but fascinating topic: membrane trafficking mechanisms in yeast cells. I was awarded a fellowship from the belgian F.N.R.S. (Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique) and completed my PhD between 2006 and 2010. I deciphered the trafficking of a yeast membrane protein and identified new details of trafficking regulation. I decided to pursue my path in cell biology with a postdoc.

    In early 2011, I was hired by Dr. Ludger JOHANNES at the Institut Curie in Paris (France). I obtained a fellowship from the french Fondation ARC (Association pour la Recherche contre le Cancer) and stayed for nearly 5 wonderful years in the lab of Ludger. During my postdoc, I worked on membrane trafficking mechanisms in mammalian cells, and more particularly on the very early step of Shiga toxin endocytosis. In particular, I discovered the first cellular factor recognizing the plasma membrane deformations induced by the toxin: the BAR domain-containing protein Endophilin-A2. Thanks to collaborations that I developped with biophysicist colleagues (Dr. Patricia BASSEREAU and Dr. Cécile SYKES, Institut Curie, Paris, France), we identified a previously unnoticed membrane fission mechanism involving the friction of a BAR domain protein scaffold on the underlying lipids upon pulling by molecular motors. In 2015, I was proposed by my former PhD superviser to come back to Belgium at the LIBST in Louvain-la-Neuve, where I could develop my own projects and ideas. I was awarded two fellowships - Move-In Louvain and F.N.R.S. Research Fellowships - and came back at the UCL with the latter. Thanks to the outstanding support of Pierre MORSOMME and the members of the LIBST, I could start developping my own projects and trying to create my own research group. I am working on the discovery of new endocytic pathways, with a special focus on those which are independent from the well-described Clathrin coat protein. I am particularly interested in the multiple functions of the membrane curvature sensing/inducing BAR domain-containing proteins in these fascinating processes. In general, I am very attached to keeping interdisciplinarity in my projects, especially by mixing cell biology and biophysics. This decisive parameter attracted me beforehand in Ludger's lab for my postdoc and I could realize how valuable and essential it is nowadays if we want to make ground-breaking discoveries in cell biology. In January 2020, I moved to UNamur where I obtained an assistant professor position and started my own lab. Let the adventure begin!

    Even if science is a major passion in my life, it is not everything. I think everyone needs hobbies, friends, family, additional (and often complementary) passions to have a balanced and happy life. And this is particularly important if, as a scientist, you want to be able to resist to failures and frustrations that are inherent in science. If things go wrong at the bench, take a break, do something else for a while, and then come back to the lab with a refreshed and positive mind. In addition, I always try to show a fair, positive and encouraging attitude with my colleagues in the lab, as in other aspects of my life. I believe this is the way to create a good atmosphere that leads people to give their best, while they keep having fun in what they are doing.

    To come back to my hobbies, I love travelling around the world and discovering new countries and new cultures. I also like swimming, which makes me feel so good (I try to do it as often as I can). Cooking and growing tomatoes or other plants are things I really enjoy too. But my major hobby, which I consider as another passion, is playing music in a band. I play a brass instrument called euphonium (you can google it, it's a kind of small tuba) in the fanfare band of my village of origin. We rehearse every Friday evening and we play concerts all along the year. What I like the most is the team spirit of the group (we are like a big family, as we say), the desire to play good music and share moments of pleasure together, to build beautiful things together and to communicate this pleasure to the public that follows us. Presently, I am also part of the management committee of my band as a treasurer. In my spare time, I also like to arrange music pieces for my band.



Cell biology

Membrane trafficking mechanisms & Endocytosis

2001 - 2006

Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium)

Bachelor and master in bio-engineering (chemistry and bio-industries)


Model membranes, nanostructured surfaces

Imaging technologies

Fluorescence imaging, super-resolution, live cell imaging, atomic force microscopy

2006 - 2010

Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium)

PhD thesis in agronomical sciences and biological engineering (FNRS Research Fellow)

2011 - 2015

Institut Curie (Paris, France)

Postdoc #1 (Fondation ARC Postdoctoral Fellow)


Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium)

Postdoc #2 (FNRS Postdoctoral Fellow)