Étienne-Émile Baulieu

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Étienne-Émile Baulieu
Born (1926-12-12) 12 December 1926 (age 95)
Known forRU-486
Scientific career

Étienne-Émile Baulieu (born 12 December 1926) is a French biochemist and endocrinologist who is best known for his research in the field of steroid hormones and their role in reproduction and aging.


Baulieu was born Émile Blum to Jewish parents in Strasbourg, France.[1] His father, who died when he was four was Léon Blum, a physician, and an early specialist in diabetes. Baulieu changed his name during World War II when his family fled to the area near Grenoble and he engaged in the French resistance.[2] After the war he attended the Faculté de Médecine de Paris and became a doctor of medicine in 1955. He studied further under his mentor Max Fernand Jayle in the field of steroid hormones and obtained his PhD degree in 1963 at the Lycée Pasteur, Faculté de Médecine and Faculté des Sciences in Paris.

In 1963 Baulieu was named director of INSERM, and in 1970 he became a Professor of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine of Bicêtre, affiliated with University of Paris-South. Since 2004 Baulieu is a member of the French "Ethical Advisory Committee" (Comité consultatif national d'éthique) for science and health. He also presides over the "Institute of Longevity and Aging" (Institut de la longévité et du vieillissement[3]) In 2008, he started the Institut Professor Baulieu to foster research into healthy longevity.[4]


Baulieu has had an ongoing interest in dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). In 1960 he demonstrated that DHEA was the main adrenal androgen, was largely conjugated as a hydrophilic sulfate, and described its metabolism and functions. He worked to uncover the production of estrogens by the placenta during pregnancy and this led to the concept of DHEA being a "prohormone". Upon the invitation of Seymour Lieberman Baulieu became visiting scientist at the Columbia University in 1961–1962, and during this time he met Gregory Pincus, the father of the "birth control pill". Baulieu then turned to more studies in contraception and in the regulation of fertility and pregnancy. He became a pioneer in the description of intracellular sex steroid receptors and identified major intracellular participants such as the heat shock proteins. He worked on the progesterone receptor and androgen receptor. While steroid receptors are generally found within the cell, Baulieu identified a membrane receptor for a steroid hormone in Xenopus laevis.


Baulieu discovered that DHEA and pregnenolone are produced in the brain and introduced the term "neurosteroids" in 1981.[5] These steroids are active in the nervous system, help repair myelin, protect the nervous system, and enhance memory. Such agents may prove to be useful in the maintenance of brain function during age, and Baulieu suggests that use of DHEA in the elderly may ameliorate certain age-associated deficits including memory loss and depressive mood.[6] Baulieu conducts clinical research about the potential benefits of DHEA in the elderly population.[7]


Baulieu is worldwide known[2] for his work on RU486 (Mifepristone) and has been termed the "Father" of the abortion pill.[8] Baulieu who had identified the progesterone receptor suggested to Roussel-Uclaf to modify the progesterone molecule to create an anti-progesterone.[9] Georges Teutsch then synthesized an agent that became initially known as RU468 in 1980. Baulieu investigated the actions of this agent as an anti-progesterone steroid that proved to be able to induce early abortion and became more effective in conjunction with misoprostol. As a proponent of a nonsurgical approach to abortion Baulieu became an advocat RU468 even when the company withdrew from the product[9] and propelled him into the limelight of the abortion debate.[10] As an anti-progesterone RU468 also has other potential such as in the treatment of certain conditions (breast cancer, brain cancer, endometriosis, diabetes, hypertension), and the anti-cortison activity he discovered may be useful to manage depression or Cushing's syndrome.


Baulieu has taken increasingly more interest in what he has called the "longevity revolution", that people are living longer, and its implications.[11] As part of this, he is investigating the potential of hormonal substitution such as DHEA to increase well-being in old age.[7] The creation of the "Institute Baulieu" has started to address issues that are detrimental to health in people of age. Currently,[when?] the institute is working on ways to decrease dependability problems of the elderly.[4]

Honours and awards[edit]


  • Baulieu EE, Kelly PA. Hormones — From Molecules to Disease. Springer (1990) ISBN 0-412-02791-7
  • Baulieu EE. Neurosteroids: A New Regulatory Function in the Nervous System. Humana Press (1999) ISBN 0-89603-545-X
  • Baulieu EE. Abortion Pill. Simon & Schuster (1991) ISBN 0-671-73816-X
  • Baulieu EE. Etienne-Émile Baulieu. Génération Pilule (Paris: 1990).(Autobiography in French)


  1. ^ Collins, Lauren (5 July 2022). "The Complicated Life of the Abortion Pill". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  2. ^ a b Blanchard, Sandrine (17 August 2007). "Etienne-Emile Baulieu: monsieur «longue vie»" [Etienne-Emile Baulieu: Mr. 'Long Life']. Le Monde (in French).
  3. ^ Official site
  4. ^ a b Site of the "Institut Baulieu" (French)
  5. ^ Etienne-Emile Baulieu & Paul Robel (1998). "Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) as neuroactive neurosteroids". PNAS. 95 (8): 4089–91. Bibcode:1998PNAS...95.4089B. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.8.4089. PMC 34265. PMID 9539693.
  6. ^ Baulieu EE. "Closing Keynote:Aging and Hormones". NY Academy of Science. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  7. ^ a b Baulieu EE, Thomas G, Legrain S, Lahlou N, Roger M, Debuire B, Faucounau V, Girard L, Hervy MP, Latour F, Leaud MC, Mokrane A, Pitti-Ferrandi H, Trivalle C, de Lacharrière O, Nouveau S, Rakoto-Arison B, Souberbielle JC, Raison J, Le Bouc Y, Raynaud A, Girerd X, Forette F (April 2000). "Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate, and aging: Contribution of the DHEAge Study to a sociobiomedical issue". PNAS. 97 (8): 4279–84. Bibcode:2000PNAS...97.4279B. doi:10.1073/pnas.97.8.4279. PMC 18228. PMID 10760294.
  8. ^ Michael Balter (6 October 2000). "Profile. For "Father" of Abortion Drug, Vindication at Last". Science. 290 (5489): 39. doi:10.1126/science.290.5489.39. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 11183145. S2CID 43134849.
  9. ^ a b Greenhouse S (12 February 1989). "A New Pill, A Fierce Battle". The New York Times: 22–24, 26. PMID 11646197.
  10. ^ Smolowe, Jill (June 1993). "New, Improved and Ready for Battle". Time. 141 (24): 48–51. PMID 11656232. Archived from the original on 28 October 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  11. ^ Baulieu EE (30 April 2000). "In Year 2000: Aging, the Forgotten Revolution. Will DHEA Help Us?". In Butler RN; Jasmin C. (eds.). Longvity and Quality of Life: Opportunity and Challenges. Springer. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-306-46315-0.
  12. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.

External links[edit]