Research Areas: Institut Pasteur

Research Areas

130 research labs, belonging to 10 research departments, are at the forefront of scientific discovery:

Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Developmental & Stem Cells Biology

Developmental biology began at the Institut Pasteur when future Nobel Laureate François Jacob, and François Gros and their colleagues, became interested in extending their pioneering work on messenger RNA in bacteria to gene regulation in eukaryotic systems. This led to the introduction of mouse genetics and embryology and to work on differentiating cells in culture. Initially these and other research groups were part of the Molecular Biology Department in the Jacques Monod building, which opened at the end of the 1960s, after the award of the Nobel prize to Jacob, Monod and Lwoff.

The Department of Developmental Biology was created in 2001, and includes the descendants of the original laboratories in the Jacques Monod building, as well as others which have joined the Institute. Today research in the Department converges on two main poles of interest. One concerns the regulation of gene expression in different developmental contexts, ranging from molecular studies on transcription factors and chromatin structure to the analysis of phenotypes when regulatory genes are mutated. The other focusses on cell lineages and cell behaviour in the embryo, with an interest also in the progenitor cells of adult tissues. In a biomedical context, with an interface with other departments on the campus, these developmental studies have led to work on stem cells with a potential for tissue regeneration and to the creation of a number of mouse models for human disease.

The Department has a strong tradition in genetics, both in classical genetics and in gene manipulation in the mouse. This is reflected by the presence of veterinarians responsible for the mouse facilities of the Institute, and the transgenic mouse service, which is also attached to our Department. Our colleagues also include human geneticists and a group using Drosophila genetics. The mouse is the model organism studied by most laboratories. However, in addition to Drosophila, there are groups working with zebra fish, and the chick embryo is also used. Precise information about research activities is given under each Unit or Group. In 2009, the unit of Marco Pontoglio moved to the Institut Cochin in Paris.

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Microbiology

Microbiology

Microorganisms are the most abundant and diversified life forms on Earth. Since bacteria are responsible for many infectious diseases, they have always been important models for studies at the Institut Pasteur. Furthermore, following the pioneering work during the last century by scientists like François Jacob and Jacques Monod, bacteria have been (and still are) superb models for scientists wishing to explore the most fundamental aspects of living cells at the molecular level. For a long time, microbiology evolved without considering the history of microorganisms however, the discovery of Archaea has now opened a new vista on early microbial evolution and finally reconciles Darwin and Pasteur. During the last ten years, interest in microbiology has rebounded, thanks to spectacular developments in genomics, cellular imagery and molecular ecology. Scientists in the Microbiology Department are working on various microorganisms (Bacteria and Archaea) and their viruses, as model systems for fundamental studies, to understand the principles of pathogenicity and find new treatment for bacterial infections, but also to get a better understanding of their unique lifestyle, and their modes of interaction with the environment.

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Cell Biology and Infection

Cell Biology & Infection

Created in 2002 and then directed by Philippe Sansonetti, organized itself around microbiologists and cell biologists, who considered that the understanding of infectious processes requires an in depth analysis of the cellular physiology during infection as well as at homeostasis between the commensal flora and the host. Its major aim is to develop the analysis of the interfaces between microorganisms and cells and tissues. Accordingly, the various teams and projects represent different facets of Microbiology and Cell Biology, either during an infection (cellular microbiology) or during a non-infectious process (biology of the nucleus, differentiation, transports, signaling and migration, carcinogenesis). These activities rely strongly on the development of new techniques, including dynamic imaging and image analysis or genomics and post- genomics. Some of these approaches are already exploited in collaboration with the Platforms of Dynamic Imaging and of Electron Microscopy and with the Unit of Quantitative Image Analysis, belonging to the Department of Cell Biology and Infection, as well as with the Genopole of the Institut Pasteur. The concept original concept is that of a multidisciplinary Department allowing emergence of a strong pole of Cell Biology at the Institut Pasteur.

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Genomes and Genetics

Genomes and Genetics

The Genomes and Genetics department was created in 2006, gathering most of the teams belonging to the former Genomes Structures and Dynamics department lead by Bernard Dujon. Antoine Danchin directed the department from 2006 to 2009. The department of Genomes and Genetics gathers 180 people in 14 scientific groups and 4 technical platforms of the Genopole. Our teams are working on the genetics of various living organisms, from bacteria, yeasts and fungi, to human beings, and use both experimental and in silico approaches. We mostly work in 4 domains:

  • Evolutionary genomics
  • 3 Rs (Recombination, Replication and Repair)
  • Functional and regulatory networks
  • Host – pathogen interactions

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Immunology

ImmunologyThe researchers, engineers, students and post-docs of the Department of Structural Biology and Chemistry use an integrative approach to the study of complex biological systems. Through observation and experiments with the latest technological tools, we study the fine detail of molecular mechanisms and the structure of molecules at multiple resolutions. The department includes a strong structural biology component, which resorts principally to X-ray diffraction, NMR and cryo-electron microscopy. The chemistry component focuses notably on saccharides and nucleic acids. Several teams also study molecular interactions and reactions, and their physiological impact at the cellular level of the cell, using a variety of biochemical, biophysical and microscopy methods. Simulation and in silico prediction completes the ensemble of approaches that are used in the Department. Our research benefits largely from the cutting-edge equipment federated within technological core facilities.

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Structural Biology and Chemistry

Structural Biology and Chemistry

The Department of Immunology, which includes 13 research units and 2 technical platforms composed of 170 scientists, has a shared interest in exploring the fundamental processes of immunity  with the hope to provide new insight into disease pathogenesis, inspire novel vaccines and design unique therapeutic strategies. Moreover, we share a commitment to  training the next generation of scientists dedicated to research excellence in the field of immunology.

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Neurobiology

Pasteur examining a spinal cord specimen in a Roux bottleBillions of neurons within the central nervous system communicate to each other through trillions of synapses. They produce, decode, transfer, integrate and store information on time scales ranging from milliseconds to decades. Synapses define the dynamic links between neurons resulting in networks that, as a whole, produce complex behaviors such as cognition. The interconnected neuronal circuits exhibitplasticity in their cellular composition and functions, changing throughout development, aging, in response to the environment, during experience and learning, in response to insult, as well as during restoration of functions. One among the primary goals of neuroscience research is to understand how the cellular and molecular building blocks of the brain are dynamically connected to process sensory information and to perform higher cognitive functions. Defects of the brain neuronal connectivity are emerging in a broad range of human disorders with both early and late onset. Severe neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders affect more than 1% of the population. More than 1% of individuals suffer from severe to profound hearing impairment and up to 30% of people after 65 years are affected in their communication by hearing loss. Severe addiction might also be related to defect in brain connectivity and afflicts a substantial proportion of the adult population.

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Virology

Research Areas: Virology

Since the Institut Pasteur's founding, virology has been a significant part of the research being done on campus. Pasteur's work on the rabies vaccine forever changed the field and since then Pasteur has remained a leader in this area. In the last decade alone, Pasteur scientists have been actively involved with a range of viruses including HIV, H1N1 influenza, SARS and numerous others. Through the work of the International Network, Pasteur scientists have identified and tracked emerging disease around the globe as diverse as Chikungunya, West Nile, Ebola annd Plague. Work on campus in vaccinology includes vaccines for HIV, smallpox, and Avian influenza while Institut Pasteur labs are also hard at work on antivirals for hepatitis C and Dengue.

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Parasitology and Micology

Research Areas: Parasitology and Micology

The Department of Parasitology and Mycology dedicates its research activities to single-celled eukaryotes, parasites and fungi, and insect vectors. Three protozoan parasites that cause diseases with major medical and economic impact in tropical countries are studied, namely Plasmodium spp, on Leishmania spp and Trypanosoma brucei, causing malaria, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness, respectively. Research activities on fungi are dedicated to Aspergillus fumigatus responsible for mycoses often lethal in immuno-depressed individuals. Research activities on insect vectors are centred on Anopheles mosquitoes, vectors of malaria parasites. The Department’s scientific objectives are to dissect the relationships between the pathogens and their hosts in order to develop novel approaches and tools to prevent, control and treat such diseases.
A comprehensive research program is being conducted on malaria, embracing all phases of the biological cycle of the Plasmodium parasite from the Anopheles host(s) & vector(s) to the mammalian host, for both human and rodent malaria parasites. The program involves five Units, one Laboratory and one Anopheles-dedicated Platform. Work on Trypanosomes is conducted in one postulating Unit, which develops programs on gene expression and RNA interference as well as on deciphering biogenesis and function of the Trypanosoma brucei flagellum in both mammal and tse tse fly hosts. One Unit and one G5 group explore the life traits of L. amazonensis, L. donovani and L. major in the mammal hosts or in axenic culture systems. One Unit works on Aspergillus fumigatus, more specifically on the host-fungus interaction during aspergillosis infection and on the biosynthesis of the fungal cell wall. One Unit works on Anopheles,bridging the field and laboratory by screening natural vector and parasite populations in Africa to identify genetic and cellular mechanisms controlling the mosquito susceptibility to infection with P. falciparum.

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Infection and EpidemiologyResearch Areas: Infection and Epidemiology

The Department of Infection & Epidemiology includes 13 research units, 3 laboratories and 1 technical platform and was created from units of the following departments:  "Molecular Medicine," "Ecosystems" and Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases". The Infection and Epidemiology Department is deeply involved in the Public Health missions through the activities of 8 National Reference Centers (Neisseria, Bordetella. Salmonella/E. coli/Shigella, Vibrio, Lyssavirus, Listeria, toxigenic Corynebacteria, Invasive Mycoses & Antifungals),  3 World Health Organization Collaborating Centers (WHO-CC) (Rabies, Listeria, Salmonella) and the Urgent Response to Biological Threats laboratory. The Department is committed to training the next generation of scientists to research in fields related to infectious diseases including, but not limited to microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and entomolgy.  The connections of the Department with various International Network sites add to the depth and reach of this Department's work.

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