After specializing in haematology in Toulouse, France in 1986, Dr. Martinou completed his Ph.D. at the CNRS in Toulouse and a post-doc at Washington University Medical School in St-Louis, USA.
In 1990, he moved to Switzerland and worked at Geneva University to study the molecular mechanisms of neuronal apoptosis.
In 1992, he joined the pharmaceutical industry and became the director of the Neurobiology Division at Glaxo Institute for Molecular Biology (1996–1997) and at Serono Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Geneva (1998–2000).
In 1992, Dr. Martinou’s team was the first to report an anti-apoptotic function of Bcl-2 in neurons, during development and under pathological conditions. This finding suggested that the cell death program was conserved among cell types and that its inhibition could be beneficial in several pathologies. Since then he has been interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of Bcl-2 family members, in particular at the mitochondrial level.
In 1997 his group reported the ability of Bax, a pro-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family, to form pores in lipid planar bilayers.
Dr. Martinou’s team is now trying to decipher the mechanisms by which Bax triggers the permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane during apoptosis.