WSPHA and precision medicine for PH – An interview with Prof. Sebastien Bonnet, acting director of the Pulmonary Hypertension research group at the Lung and Heart Institute of Quebec City and member of the WSPHA Scientific Board

Professor Bonnet, please introduce yourself.

I’m Sebastien Bonnet, I am professor in medicine in Laval University in Quebec City and the acting director of the Pulmonary Hypertension research group at the Lung and Heart Institute of Quebec City.

When and why did your interest in Pulmonary Hypertension first arise?

I started working on Pulmonary Hypertension about 20 years ago when I initiated my PhD thesis. I was working on hypoxia and potassium channels at the very basic level in the cells and as everybody knows hypoxia and potassium channel are heavy implicated in the development of Pulmonary Hypertension so it was a logic transition from my very basic research to move to the Pulmonary Hypertension research field about 20 years ago.

So about 20 years ago in Paris we made interesting discoveries regarding Pulmonary Hypertension and I was invited by Professor Étienne-Émile Baulieu,, who was the director of the Science Academia of France, to work with him. We found that one of the molecules that Dr. Baulieu discovered, DHEA improved Pulmonary Hypertension in animal models. This meeting with Prof. Baulieu totally changed my way of doing research and stimulated me to employ translational research to discover new therapics for patients with Pulmonary Hypertension. 

How important is the contribution of the WSPH Association to the field of Pulmonary Hypertension?

I think the World Symposia Association on Pulmonary Hypertension is critical because it brings under the same roof a variety of researchers from different countries in the world from basic, translational, clinical,  and epidemiologic. This will certainly bring new hope for patients with Pulmonary Hypertension, so I’m very proud to be part of that Association and I think the future looks very bright thanks to the development of this association.

In your opinion, what will be the next major breakthrough in the Pulmonary Hypertension world?

I think the future for Pulmonary Hypertension looks very interesting. We are entering a new area of research based on precision medicine ,and I think Pulmonary Hypertension will benefit from this type of study by trying to identify which patient will be good responder to the various therapies that already exist. I think there is a lot of hope that the field of epigenetics and gene therapy, for example the microRNAs and long non-coding RNAs that have been shown to play a critical role in Pulmonary Hypertension, may identify novel therapies.