Agroecology 5 min
Grapevine health: Véronique Brault heads the SVQV unit
After two years as Deputy Director, Véronique Brault was appointed Director of the Joint Research Unit for Grapevine Health and Wine Quality at INRAE Colmar on 1 January 2020. As a researcher specialised in plant virology, she has been studying the molecular mechanisms of virus transmission by aphids for 27 years, cementing her status as a true expert in this field.
Published on 05 March 2020
A passion for virology
After hesitating between an artistic or a scientific career, Véronique Brault eventually chose science and obtained a technical degree in biological and biochemical analysis in Angers. She discovered the world of plant virology during her final internship for her undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology at the Plant Pathology unit at INRA’s Bordeaux centre. She completed another internship for her Master’s degree as well as her PhD thesis at the same unit.
Véronique then spent two years in America’s heartland in Iowa for a postdoctoral fellowship, where she pursued her path as a molecular virologist within an extremely favourable environment. This was followed by a decisive meeting with the members of the Virology team at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Strasbourg, where she did a second fellowship.
She joined CNRS as a researcher on a project to study the transmission of viruses by aphids, a theme she continues to explore with her current research team. Following her many collaborative projects with colleagues from INRA Colmar, she was temporarily assigned and then seconded to this research centre, which has been her permanent home since 2005.
Various encounters over the years with passionate and enthusiastic scientists shaped Véronique’s ultimate career path. One of the most influential was undoubtedly her virology professor at the University of Bordeaux, Josy Bové, whose passion for molecular virology proved infectious. These individuals all strengthened her conviction that virology research was the right choice.
A focus on viruses at the SVQV unit
Véronique now heads up the Joint Research Unit for Grapevine Health and Wine Quality, a unit that studies plant-pathogen interactions in order to develop alternatives to the commonly used phytosanitary products used in vineyards today. The unit works to create new grapevine varieties that are resistant to the main fungal pathogens affecting these plants. Several varieties that are resistant to downy and powdery mildew are already on the market, and many more are on the way. The research teams are striving to produce effective, broad and lasting resistances to produce high-quality wine within a context of climate change. In this respect, efforts are underway in the unit to understand the biosynthesis of the compounds involved in the aromatic qualities of wines.
Viruses are also a central focus of the SVQV unit’s research because more often than not, grapevines are infected by multiple viruses at a time. To fight grapevine viruses, researchers have two points of attack: to go after the virus directly, or to combat the vectors that carry the viruses from plant to plant. Accordingly, scientists are conducting research on two fronts. First, they are investigating the biology of grapevine viruses by studying their pathogenicity and diversity. Second, they are delving into the mechanisms of virus transmission by vectors by trying to answer the fascinating question (among others) of whether viruses can manipulate the host plant and vector to ensure transmission.
Véronique accepted the position as the SVQV unit’s director to play her part in the collective effort. She was motivated by the family spirit of the unit and because she knows it well having served as Deputy Director for two years. She wants to maintain the unit’s collegial leadership by working closely with team managers, the unit's administrative manager and her deputy director.
She also plans to continue her research activities. She will therefore wear two hats – one for Unit Director and another for Researcher. She has divided her schedule and will have two offices, each for a given function. On the research side, she remains devoted to studying “the transmission of viruses by aphids”.
CV IN BRIEF
Since 2020 SVQV Unit Director, INRAE Colmar