Department of Virology

Director : Olivier SCHWARTZ

    The Virology Department of Institut Pasteur is constituted by 19 principal investigators with their research units or groups, covering most aspects of contemporary virology with a special emphasis on human pathogenic viruses. Our major challenge is to remain at the cutting edge of fundamental research and, at the same time, close to applications in global public health issues.
    Our research aims at understanding the molecular mechanisms at play during the different steps of the viral cycle – cell entry, intra cellular transport, uncoating, genome replication, particle assembly, cell-to-cell viral transfer, exit. We also study the dissemination of the virus within the organism (the crossing of barriers to infect specific organs and tissues) and in the environment - transmission modes, vectors, entomology, zoonotic transmission, identification of animal reservoirs – doing molecular and clinical epidemiology. The use of retroviruses as vectors for gene therapy is also developed as well as imaging techniques to study the dynamics of a viral infection. We also devote intense efforts to understand the innate and acquired host-responses to virus infections – both at the infected cell and at the whole organism level – and the viral countermeasures to survive. Another important aspect is the identification of the human genetic determinants of susceptibility or resistance to a virus infection, which involves studying population genetics. Together, the resulting knowledge is paramount to develop rational approaches for intervention, preventive or curative. In this specific area, and in concert with IP core facilities, scientists in the Department are trying to develop state-of-the-art screening assays to identify and validate viral and/or host targets for therapeutic intervention.
    The viruses that we study are diverse, including retroviruses (HIV, HTLV and foamy viruses - as well as their simian counterparts), oncogenic viruses (including hepatitis viruses, papillomaviruses, herpesviruses and T-cell leukemia viruses), respiratory viruses (influenza virus, the respiratory syncytial virus), arboviruses (flaviviruses, alphaviruses, bunyaviruses). Other viruses studied include picornaviruses, rhabdoviruses and paramyxoviruses such as measles and parainfluenza viruses. Highly pathogenic agents such as Lassa and Nipah viruses are studied in the context of the biosafety level 4 facilities in Lyon.