Theraptosis is set up under the Institut Pasteur's business incubator, Pasteur Biotop. Founded in March 2001, Theraptosis aims to develop molecules which either induce or prevent cell suicide (apoptosis) and to evaluate their therapeutic potential. The investigations surrounding this very new treatment strategy, based on a technology resulting from the work of the CNRS, the Institut Pasteur and the INSERM, are geared towards the treatment of cancers, and neuro-degenerative and cardiovascular diseases.
The death of cells through apoptosis, or cell suicide, is an active self-destruction phenomenon, beneficial to the body when it enables the elimination of abnormal, mutated or dangerous cells. On the other hand, an excess or insufficient level of apoptosis can actually cause illness. Until recently, little was known of the basic trigger mechanism for cell suicide. Recent discoveries indicate that it is within a cell organelle, mitochondrion, hitherto known as the cell's "energy factory", that the decision regarding the life or death of the cell is made.
In effect, this organelle stores proteins in its membrane which, when found in the cell cytoplasm or nucleus, trigger the death of the cell. The partial or total permeability of the mitochondrion causes the release of the lethal proteins. The life or death of a cell could therefore be controlled by molecules acting on the permeability of the mitochondrial membranes: this is the basic concept behind THERAPTOSIS.
In effect, THERAPTOSIS aims to identify molecules that act on apoptosis and to evaluate their therapeutic potential. Certain molecules (cytotoxic) are capable of triggering cell suicide and others (cytoprotective) of preventing it.
The cytotoxic molecules, combined with targeted vectors, could be used in cancerology to destroy tumorous cells. Other cytoprotective molecules could serve to prevent the destruction of cells: neurons, in the case of neuro-degenerative diseases (Parkinson's, Alzheimer's), or cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells), in the case of a myocardial infarction (heart attack). THERAPTOSIS will initially study the feasibility of such treatment prospects.
The technology and products of THERAPTOSIS will be developed using a network of skills combined from experts of international renown.
THERAPTOSIS is co-managed by Lena Edelman
and Etienne Jacotot. Dr Léna Edelman, Head of the Cellular Technology
Laboratory at the Institut Pasteur, will chair THERAPTOSIS' Board of Directors
and Scientific Committee. Etienne Jacotot is the Managing Director and Head
of Research and Development: after a doctoral thesis on apoptosis and HIV
at the Institut Pasteur, he continued his research into apoptosis as part
of the CNRS (UMR 1599) "Apoptosis, cancer and immunity" team at
the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif.
The Institut Pasteur has been supporting the foundation of innovative companies since 1997: Hybrigenics (1997), Diatos (1999), Cellectis (1999), Evologic (2000), PasteurMed (2000), Theraptosis (2001) and Celogos (2001). Since December 2000, the Pasteur BioTop business incubator has welcomed biotechnology start-ups. For a period of two years, each company benefits from fully equipped laboratories, access to the Pasteur Institute's technical platforms and the associated support services: finance, accounting, patents, quality assurance, business development, legal and communication etc.
- Léna Edelman
Tel: +33 (0) 145.688.211 - fax: +33 (0) 145.688.790 - E-mail: email@example.com
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