Text: Bertrand Tappy
Photo: Gilles Weber

Onya Opota

The microbiologist Onya Opota explains what brought him to Lausanne to pursue his career.

In the microbiology laboratories of the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), the tall form of Onya Opota can easily be seen towering over the machinery that runs 24/7. A doctor of biology specialising in microbiology, cellular biology and molecular biology, Onya Opota owes his build not only to his genetic heritage but also to his former occupation as a professional volleyball player who even played for the French national team. A career pursued at the same time as his studies, “at no detriment to either, thanks to the support of those around me”.

After gaining his doctorate, Onya Opota was keen to join a research group. His quest led him to Switzerland and the EPFL institute of technology. “I had already visited Lausanne during my sporting career and I loved the region straight away, with its great lifestyle and friendly people. Also, the strong scientific reputation of this area had already started to attract many prestigious figures who I was keen to work with. So when an opportunity came up to join the Infectology Institute at the EPFL, I said yes straight away!”

Onya Opota then began his post-doctoral studies on the subject of bacterial virulence. In the course of this work, he identified a new bacterial toxin, Monalysin. “Then, as I still wanted to return to clinical work, I joined the diagnostic laboratory of the CHUV microbiology institute, where I specialised in medical microbiology. The CHUV has everything that is important in my eyes: great team spirit, workplace practices that give everybody a role, and a field of activity in constant motion. The working environment at the CHUV is really ideal. Cooperation with other specialists – particularly doctors specialising in infectious diseases – is one of the strengths of the university hospital. It is a key advantage in our ability to act extremely quickly. We see patients suffering from a wide range of increasingly complex diseases. We are never careless in what we do. We always
show maximum concentration and commitment.”

In addition to pursuing his research, Onya Opota is one of the team responsible for the analyses conducted by the laboratory, from the arrival of the sample supplied by the medical team through to the handover of results to the doctors. And what about sport? “I decided to stop competing when I was doing my post-doctoral research, which marked the period of transition from student to research scientist. But after a few months, I was contacted by Lausanne Université Club, which is in Swiss League 1 and that got me out on the sports field again for two last seasons. In the first season, we finished in the finals of the Swiss Cup and the following season, we took first place!” ⁄

Inside the molecular diagnostic laboratory of the CHUV microbiology institute, Onya Opota identifies the germs causing infectious diseases.



The microbiologist observes bacterial colonies of Escherichia coli from a clinical sample. This bacterium is the source of serious infections in humans.