Learn more about the Integrated Genomics Operation (IGO)

VIDEO | 04:34

Go inside the IGO lab in the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology with Drs. Agnès Viale and Neeman Mohibullah.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: Hey Agnès. How you doing?

Agnès Viale: Hey good. And you?

Speaker 1: I’m good.

Agnès Viale: Come on in.

Speaker 1: All right. I hope you're ready for a lot of questions. For those who don't know you, who are you?

Agnès Viale: My name is Agnès Viale and I'm the head of the integrated genomics operation, which is a lab in the center for molecular oncology.

Speaker 1: And what type of research happens here?

Agnès Viale: Oh, we sequence DNA and RNA of all kinds, from mouse to yeast and human. “Hi, Emily, how are you doing? Hi. Good. Is it not too many samples? No, we're good. We're good. All right. Thank you.”

Speaker 1: Why is next generation sequencing so important?

Agnès Viale:  It's really the pillar of discovery for the past 10 years now and it works with a molecular biology, cancer biology, structural biology.

Speaker 1: How does information from a sequenced tumor help guide cancer treatment?

Agnès Viale: One of the ways that normal cell becomes cancerous is by acquiring mutation in their DNA. So, identifying those mutation really can guide the diagnostic and the prognosis of the disease.

Speaker 1: How many mutations can a single tumor or a blood sample contain?

Agnès Viale: Oh, thousands.

Speaker 1: And how many of them are likely to be drug targets?

Agnès Viale: So there are currently 43 genes that are, targetable and have become standard of care biomarkers.

Speaker 1: This sounds like a lot of work. What's one thing you can't live without during your workday?

Agnès Viale: My Nespresso pods, two of them around 10:00 AM.

Speaker 1: What are some key technological highlights of research under your leadership?

Agnès Viale: I will say that over the past 20 years, we've been really able to minimize the amount of material that we can start with.

Speaker 1: And why is that important?

Agnès Viale: Because we couldn't do it otherwise, right? Like if you want to do a brain biopsy, you can’t take a big part of your brain, right? So smaller is really crucial, and now we're down to single cell sequencing.

Speaker 1: What are you most proud of during your time heading up this lab?

Agnès Viale:  What I'm most proud of is to have been able to build a team where everybody has a voice, and we all care for each other. And this became really obvious during the pandemic where we were asked to put together a COVID testing lab in a record amount of time. And this really was a kudo to my team.

Speaker 1:  If you could have dinner with any scientist from history, who would it be?

Agnès Viale: Louis Pasteur

Speaker 1: And what would you ask him?

Agnès Viale:  Oh, I can't wait to ask him about the vaccine and COVID vaccine in particular and all the controversy.

Speaker 1: You're moving on from this role. What's up next for you?

Agnès Viale:  So I'm going to be working with, uh, all the core facilities now, not just IGO, and I'm really excited about, about that. I like to introduce you to somebody who is this. This is Dr. Neeman Mohibullah, who will be heading IGO.

Speaker 1:  Hi. Are you ready for a few questions?

Neeman Mohibullah:  I think so.

Speaker 1: All right. Show us around here.

Neeman Mohibullah:  All right.

Speaker 1: How long have you worked in this lab?

Neeman Mohibullah:  About five years.

Speaker 1: And what are you excited about in taking on this new role?

Neeman Mohibullah:  First and foremost, working with the amazing team that we've built here over the past few years.

Speaker 1: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Neeman Mohibullah: A veterinarian. But my dad called over our veterinarian and got him to talk me out of being a veterinarian.

Speaker 1: How many people work in this lab and what do they do?

Neeman Mohibullah: About 35 people. We have lots of different teams. Those teams are led by managers who are overseeing research assistants, research technicians. We have bioinformatics engineers, data scientists, analysts.

Speaker 1: What’s the best piece of advice you've received?

Neeman Mohibullah: Probably from Agnès to always be fearless and to always be moving forward.

Speaker 1: So here's the dream team? What are we looking at here?

Agnès Viale:  This is it. This is the room where it all happens. This is where the gene is being sequenced, using those instruments.

Speaker 1:  Can you tell us a fun fact about the sequencers?

Agnès Viale:  They all have their own names.

Speaker 1:  And do you have a favorite?

Agnès Viale:  I do, but I can share with you because they might be jealous, you know, and start acting up. And we definitely don't want to that.

Speaker 1: Thank you so much for letting us stop by today. And I want to wish you both the best of luck in your new roles.

Agnès Viale: Thank you very much. And we've got to go to work now. Bye.