Jacques Charles Senez, founder of the LCB, was born on January 14, 1915 in Marseilles where he studied medicine that ended in a thesis of paediatrics. It preferred then the microbiologist’s career to that, promised, of head of hospital department.
But how this young doctor took an interest in microbiology ?
J.C. Senez dreamed to become microbiologist like his father. His dream came true in November 1942 when as a young training doctor at Conception ‘s hospital ; he was offered a place of trainee at the Pasteur Institute, in Paris. So, for one year, he worked in the laboratory of anaerobic bacteria, a word-famous laboratory thanks to the new classification of the anaerobic bacteria that the Doctor Andre-Romain Prévôt, the director of the laboratory, proposed.
After the war, the meeting with George Petit, professor of Zoology at the Faculty of Science of Saint-Charles, led J C Senez to be interested in the marine bacteria on which not enough information was available, until the day when during a very warm and dry summer, dead fishes were found floating on the surface of the pond of Canet (near Perpignan….
In 1947, J.C. Senez met François Canac, an acoustics specialist who directed the Navy Research center based in the Arsenal of Toulon. After this center was distroyed by the Germans, F Canac and all his staff were welcome by CNRS, in Marseilles, in the former school of the Jesuits, located in Saint-Sébastien Street, where the father of J C Senez studied. In that place, the CRISM (Industrial and Maritime Scientific Research center) was created. It is in these modest buildings that the Bacterial Chemistry laboratory (LCB) was born : J C Senez, father of this second birth, accepted the proposal of F Canac to begin researches on biological corrosion. He decided to work on the sulfato-reducing bacteria, discovered by professor Beijerinck from Delft, a good subject of research accessible to the modest technical means he had. F Canac made him nominated to part-time research attaché and so began its career at CNRS.
In 1955, after getting its thesis of doctorate in sciences, advicing by Andre Lwoff, J. C. Senez, left France to acquire an international experience and met important personalities of biochemistry. In England, it was E Gale, an eminent English specialist in bacterial biochemistry, who proposed to him a training course in its laboratory of Cambridge. In the Netherlands, he was welcomed by the famous A. J. Kluyver in its laboratory of Delft, considered by J. C. Senez as the "Mecca of microbiology".
On returning to Marseilles, in February 1956, He met C. B. Niel who was very interested in the sulfato-reducing bacteria - Van Niel was, with A. J. Kluyver, the most famous representative of the school of Delft. Student of Beijerinck, he emigrated in California and became a professor at the Stanford’s University.
At the end of the year 1956, his research team quickly increased : to his first collaborator Francis Pichinoty, Jeannette Cattaneo, Marie-Claire Pascal, Jean-Pierre Belaïch and Jean Gall joined him. Since 1955, this large team had settled to the 50 Saint-Jacques Street in Marseilles.
At the same time as its studies on the sulfato-reducing bacteria, J.C. Senez was interested in the study of the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons in a project in association with British Petroleum ( BP) known under the name of « Microbiology of the Petroleum ». These studies ended in a project of production of food yeasts by growth on hydrocarbons.
And so from 1958 till 1962, the researches on the industrial production of proteins with food end from the petroleum continued in the greatest secrecy by giving excellent results which were at the origin of the construction of an important factory in Lavera in the Bay of Fos. Unfortunately, the project had to be abandoned because occurred in 1973 the first oil crisis : the profitability of the process decreased strongly what brought to the stop of the production in 1975, after obtaining some thousand tons of yeasts for the animal food. J.C. Senez would retain that « this fascinating adventure had shown that the basic research and the applied research could move a same step forward on the roads of the scientific knowledge. »