Pierre Lépine (1901-1989)
French physician and biologist, born on Aug. 15, 1901, in Lyon. His father, Jean Lépine, was appointed as lecturer in clinical psychiatry, at the medical school of Lyon.
1918 Training in physiology, at the university of sciences in Lyon.
1920-1925 After training as a non-resident physician, obtained medical internship at the hospitals of Lyon.
1924-1926 With the support of Professor R. Leriche, travelled to Central America, where he met H. Noguchi, who was a scientist from the Rockefeller Foundation ; both of them conducted research on yellow fever, at the hospital of Tela, Honduras.
1925 Thesis defense for medical doctorate ; the dissertation topic was : Les conditions sanitaires dans l'Amérique tropicale : Centre-Amérique, Panama et la Zone du canal ˇ(Health conditions in Latin America : Central America, Panama, Panama canal area).
1925-1926 Appointed as lecturer in general and anatomical pathology, at the American university of Beirut, Lebanon, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation.
1927 Entered the College de France, as an assistant, in the laboratory under L. Nathan Larrier ; conducted research in serology ; met L. Fournier, at the Cochin hospital.
1927-1928 Referred by Cl. Regaud for attending the microbiology course of the Institut Pasteur, in Paris.
1928-1931 Named Head of laboratory at the Institut Pasteur, under C. Levaditi ; while pursuing the field of chemotherapy to find cure for syphilis, tackled virus systematics ; conducted research on herpes viral encephalitis in monkeys and on poliovirus ; his experiments revealed that 1) poliovirus can survive in sewage water ; 2) one of the routes of poliovirus transmission is oral in the intestinal tract ; 3) chlorine is effective in inactivating poliovirus. With P. Ravaut, he isolated the first French viral strain causing the disease described by Nicolas and Faure, and his attempts to transmit the disease to monkeys via the peripheral route were successful.
1930 Traveled to London for studying multiple sclerosis.
1931-1935 At request of E. Roux and A. Calmette, became Director of the Athens Pasteur Institute and Professor in bacteriology at the Athens School of Hygiene ; conducted research on kala azar ; showed that the agent causing exanthematic typhus was observed both in human and mice materials ; began his first clinical trials of a vaccine for poliomyelitis in monkeys, using inactivated virus.
1932 Became an associated member of the Société de biologie .
1935-1939 Occupied the position of assistant, then head of the rabies laboratory ; he was the first-ever in France to isolate the virus causing lymphocytic choriomeningitis ; gave lectures about viruses, at the Institut Pasteur.
1936 Became a member of the Philomatic Society of Paris (Société Philomathique de Paris ), where he joined M. Macheboeuf, P. Lecomte du Nouy and J. Tréfouël.
1938 Co-founded the French Society of Microbiology (Société française de microbiologie ) ; in collaboration with C. Levaditi, wrote a book entitled Les ultravirus des maladies humaines (ultra-microscopic viruses causing human diseases).
1939-1940 Went to Beirut and spent two years of the WW2 in the East Army, as a technical guest lecturer at the Health Service of the East-Mediterranean military theater of operations.
1941-1971 The Institut Pasteur's direction aimed to merge the laboratories dealing with viruses into one larger department and thus assigned P. Lépine to carry it out ; improved the equipment of his lab by introducing two high speed centrifuges and the first electron microscope ever used in France (granted by the CNRS).
1946 Became a member of the French committee on medical war crimes, chaired by R. Legroux ; the committee, sitting at the Institut Pasteur, was in charge of collecting witnesses concerning medical experiments on human beings in Nazi concentration camps and so contributed to the legal framework provided by the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Provided technical advice for the building of the new pavilion Darré (Dr. Darré was the former surgeon general of the Pasteur's hospital), thanks to the donation of Dr. Darré's widow.
1950-1957 Following the results published by three American biologists (Enders, Weller and Robbins), who developed a method for replicating poliovirus in embryonic cell cultures, the scale-up production of virus was made possible and the vaccine could be considered for humans ; Jonas Salk in Pittsburg and P. Lépine at the Institut Pasteur were both interested in searching for it, along with other groups ; after an active collaboration, published their works some weeks apart ; the vaccines differed from each other on the type of poliovirus strain used ; the Lépine's methods consisted in twice inactivated virus, first with formalin then with beta-propiolactone, in order to prevent any infectious risks ; mass vaccination campaign in France against poliomyelitis, using Lépine's vaccine (French mandatory childhood vaccine program, 1964) lead to nearly complete eradication of the infant paralysis in France.
1957 Responsible for the course of virology at the Institut Pasteur.
1961 Elected member of the French Academy of Sciences (Section for Human Biology and Medical Sciences).
1971 Retired from the Institut Pasteur ; elected city councilman in Paris' sixteenth arrondissement, where he was in charge of public health, Parisian hospitals and drug abuse prevention.
1979 On behalf of the Paris city council, mandated to travel to South East Asia in order to welcome Vietnamese and Cambodian refugeers in France.
Collaborators : P. Atanasiu, J. Augier, G. Barski, J. Bazin, Fr. Bilfinger, P. Bonét-Maury, N. Bulgakov, R. Cachera, J. Caminopetros, C. Chany, P. Cornuet, O. Croissant, L. Cruveilhier, J.-L. Delsal, R. Deschiens, R. Dujarric de la Rivière, T. Ekblom, H. Jacotot, G. Garreau, Ch. Garrin, P. Grabar, E. Grasset, A. Guelin, J. Guintini, B. Kreis, P. Haber, E. Henocq, A. Howard, C. Kling, B. Kolochine-Erber, J. Lafforet-Furiet, R. Lamy, C. Levaditi, J. Levaditi, N. Lorando, F. Marcenac, M. Macheboeuf, A. Marie, J. Markianos, J.-F. Martin, CL. Martin, M. Mathis, J. Maurin, J. May, P. Mollaret, L. Nattan-Larrier, P. Nicolle, G. Pangalos, Papayoannou, V. Pavilanis, P. Plessier, H. Plotz, G. Ramon, M. Raynaud, P. Ravault, L. Reinié, F. Robbe-Fossat, P. Robeyrotte, A. Roger, F. Roger, E. Roubaud, B. Rybak, V. Sanchis-Bayarri, V. Sautter, P. Sédaillan, R. Shoen, P. Thévenard, S. Thieffry, M. Treillard, J. Troisier, Tage Strung, R. Turpin, A. Vachey, A. Vaisman, A. Vallée, J. Valtis, C. Viala, J. Vieuchange, P. Vinzent, Wyckoff, G. Wielgosz.
Biographical reference tools :
- Atanasiu (Pascu), Pierre Lépine, Annales de l'Institut Pasteur, 3, 2, 1992, p. 122-124.
- Atanasiu (Pascu), Naissance d'un vaccin, Le Monde , 17/05/1989.
- Lépine (Pierre), Titres et travaux scientifiques du Docteur Pierre Lépine , s.r., 1951, 20 p. (archives Pasteur, LEP.A1).
- Lépine (Pierre), Notice biographique , 1961, 4 p. dact. (archives Pasteur, LEP.A1).
- Weindling (Paul), Les racines françaises du code de Nuremberg, La Recherche , hors-série nÝ 7, pp. 105-107, 04/2002.
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