Can you tell us about yourself, your role at your current company/institution and what you do there?
My name is Maïté Rielland. I have a PhD in Development and Stem Cells and a post-doctorate from NYU School of Medicine and Mont Sinai School of Medicine, United States, all focusing on 2D and 3D in vitro models.
I was hired by L’Oréal in 2014, and I’m currently working as a Transversal and Technical Leader/Scientific Leader in Biomaterial/Bioprinting in Cellular and Tissue Engineering Platform headed by Dr. Jérémie Soeur. I lead a team dedicated to the development of new human skin models and associated methods with the use of new technologies, including bioprinting, for cosmetic evaluation tests.
How did you get started with 3D bioprinting and what motivates you most about your work?
I was hired by L’Oréal to install their bioprinters, but I never worked with bioprinting technologies before that. However, I had a pretty good expertise in 2D and 3D models, and I was trained to create new protocols from scratch which was necessary back in 2014 to start printing human skin tissue.
I love my job. Bioprinting is so new and seems so limitless in term of possibilities for the moment. As I like to say, our only limitation with bioprinting is our imagination. I also enjoy the transversality of expertise (biology, chemistry, engineering, biomechanics, analytic chemistry…etc.) that is involved in the bioprinting process. Through my work, I have developed a huge network of experts inside and outside L’Oréal. Together, we are working to crack this ever-evolving technology. Thanks to these exchanges, I learn new things every single day at work.
What projects are you currently working on?
We are currently working on several human skin models using bioprinting or fluidics to mimic heterogeneity of normal and pathological human skin for knowledge and evaluation studies. The idea is to get complex and predictive human skin models for efficacy tests and for knowledge.
Where do you see bioprinting 5-10 years from now and what excites you most about the evolution of this technique?
Skin tissue printing is a medical application of bioprinting which will surely experience a huge development in the next five years. We have recently seen the emergence of in situ bioprinting and the creation of companies that have initiated clinical trials of printed skin tissue as a form of treatment for burn patients. In situ bioprinting consist of printing directly on the burned patient using his/her own cells at the right position avoiding an in vitro culture phase of the skin tissue. This will soon revolutionize treatment procedures and their efficacy. Other applications, in my opinion, will need more time to mature and will be firstly developed for in vitro testing during the next five to ten years.
I am super excited by all these approaches and the fact that this technology is forcing us to think about tissue engineering differently. The field is growing and improving very quickly. It’s fascinating to see the future of science building right in front of my eyes.
What are some of the challenges that you see in the field of bioprinting and day-to-day in your lab?
One of the biggest challenges facing bioprinting is the need for better collaboration amongst the different disciplines overarching this technique. For example, bioinks are a pivotal part of bioprinting, but they need to be biocompatible, withhold shape fidelity properties, biofunctional, maintain high resolution during printing, mimic shear-thinning behavior, etc. Putting all these pieces together can seem like trying to build a giant jigsaw puzzle, but the challenge is exciting. We have already developed some pretty good bioinks internally.
Would you say there is gender inequality in the sector? What would companies like us need to do to bridge the gap?
I give lectures at La Sorbonne University (Master’s in Biotechnology) and the University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland (Zürich, Berne, Basel/Muttenz, Sion). I also teach to summer school at ETH Zurich to students specializing in the bioprinting field. If there are more men than women, I don’t think there is a huge difference proportionally. This is perhaps because bioprinting also intersects with the field of biology, and there are a lot of women in the biology sector.
At L’Oréal, there is no gender inequality. In 2019, 69% percent of employees in Research and Innovation were female which is proof that we are promoting women in science. However, this wasn’t done deliberately. We are a company that hires the best candidates, regardless of their gender. And as you can see, I am woman who is leading the Bioprinting and Biomaterial team.
L’Oréal has also been very involved in promoting in gender equality in science especially through its “L’OREAL-UNESCO For Women in Science” program. This program is helping empower more women scientists working in Physical, Formal, and Life Sciences, all over the world to achieve scientific excellence and participate equally in solving the great challenges facing humanity.
It would be wonderful to see younger generations embrace science and engineering as a career option, how do you think we can encourage more involvement from girls and young women in these sectors?
By breaking gender stereotypes from the very beginning. We have to stop saying that little girls play with dolls and little boys play with cars and build things. When little girls start school, they will be unconsciously or consciously pushed to do a “woman’s job”. This is something that will also be perpetuated during their entire education as well. In science, and I have seen this so many times, a woman will be pushed to pursue a career in biology while men will be encouraged to go toward bioinformatic or engineering domains. We have to push and support women in pursuing any field they want and emphasize that there aren’t any gender-specific career paths. You don’t need to be a man or woman to be a passionate scientist.
What advice would you give young women who want to develop their career in this rapidly-evolving sector?
Don’t give up! If working in bioprinting is really a career path you want to pursue, persevere and keep working hard. Concerning trainings, getting a multidisciplinary training, including in biomaterial and biology will be advantage. Also, stay curious as the field is moving so fast.
From a professional standing, where do you see your work and your research five years from now?
We are convinced that bioprinting is a breakthrough in tissue engineering and in the fabrication of new models that will be more predictive for in vitro tests. In five years, some models that are currently being developed in our laboratory will be routinely used internally. We are also actively working on co-valorization and transversal projects as bioprinting will be much more than a technology only focused on tissue engineering.
Are you involved in any organization or association that promotes women in science?
I am involved in some L’Oréal initiatives, such as, “For Women in Science”, in which I invite young women scientists and laureates to our bioprinting lab, and we engage in thought-provoking discussions around this exciting new field. I also took part in L’Oréal’s “Talent for Research” event, where I was able to explain my job and training on the company’s social media channels in the hopes of encouraging young women to pursue a career in science.