Strategic equipment and technologies

The nineties were marked by a rapid increase in technological resources, opening up new prospects for biological research. As a result, the Institut Pasteur decided to set up a Strategic Equipment and Technologies Division (DETS). The DETS ensures coordination between scientific policy, transversal research programmes (PTR) and the purchase of scientific equipment by setting up technical platforms (PTs) accessible to all the research units.

Implementation

In 2000, several technical platforms were set up by the Strategic Equipment and Technologies Division. The platforms comprise a collection of equipment, technologies and devices, based on a theme and placed, in the majority of cases, under the responsibility of a technological engineer, assisted, where appropriate, by other engineers, technicians or laboratory assistants. The profile of a technical platform is defined by the Strategic Equipment and Technologies Division, after consulting other divisions, based on the requirements of the researchers as a whole and in line with the scientific policy of the Institut Pasteur.

A number of scientific advisers to the director of the Strategic Equipment and Technologies Division were appointed for each of the technological facilities. All researchers on the campus, as well as external researchers in certain cases, have access to the technical platforms under standard conditions. The technical platforms are to be reviewed every four years in order to ensure, insofar as possible, good reaction times and continuous adaptation by monitoring technological progress. This may lead to the creation of new technological platforms. We must clearly invest more in technical facilities in order to bridge certain gaps, in bioinformatics and structural biology, for instance, and install new facilities to meet increasing requirements, such as imaging for small animals. One of the major challenges concerns the management of human resources in order to maintain a balance between service activities and technological research.

The technical platforms

The Genopole

This technological platform houses all the high-technology equipment required for the implementation of genomic and post-genomic projects, and is organised in line with the central dogma of molecular biology: DNA RNA proteins. Five technical platforms (PTs) are currently housed in the Institut Pasteur Genopole: 'Genomic projects', 'DNA microarrays', 'Proteomics', 'Annotation', and 'Structural genomics'. Moreover, in September 2000, a call for proposals was launched at the Institut Pasteur for genomic, transcriptome and proteomic projects in the context of the Genopole microbiology programme, subsidised by the French Ministry of Research. Thirty-one dossiers were submitted (19 in genomics, 7 in transcriptome and 5 in proteomics). On 9 November 2000, the steering committee reviewed the projects, 20 of which were selected (13 genomic, 5 transcriptome and 2 proteomic projects).

PT1

Genomic projects

This technical platform is responsible for the preparation of templates and high-throughput DNA sequencing.

PT2

DNA microarrays

This technical platform is responsible for developing and using DNA microarrays in order to enable comparative genomic and transcriptome studies.

PT3

Proteomics

This technical platform is responsible for identifying and characterising the known and unknown proteins discovered during genomic projects. The main techniques used are two-dimensional electrophoresis and mass spectrometry.

PT4

'Annotation'

Microbial genomic analysis laboratory

The activities of this technical platform include the assembly and analysis of nucleotide sequences from PT1, identifying genes and regulatory signals, annotating sequences, identifying and classifying proteins, and presenting the results in the form of interactive databases. PT4 will subsequently lend assistance to the various teams of biologists in the analysis and exploitation of genomic data from various organisms.

PT5

Structural genomics

This technical platform is responsible for the cloning and simultaneous expression of a large number of genes discovered during the analysis of microbial genomes, in order to implement large-scale structural biology. The proteins thus over-expressed will be purified, then analysed by NMR, X-ray diffraction, or electron cryomicroscopy in order to elucidate their structure.

Bioinformatics centre

The bioinformatics centre aims to promote biological research through information technology. The centre consists of the structural bioinformatics unit (10 personnel), the combinatorial algorithm laboratory (6 personnel) and the biosystemics module: modelling - engineering.

Dynamic imaging centre (CID)

Imaging, a central feature of modern research, was further enhanced in 2001. This technical facility mainly fulfils four functions:

enabling a large number of laboratories to have access to established imaging methods requiring the use of equipment which is expensive and/or difficult to use or maintain, thus necessitating high-level technical skills;
monitoring technological progress and enabling new microscopy and imaging methods to be introduced;
promoting the use of image processing and analysis for a quantitative approach to biological imaging themes;
providing training for researchers and post-doctoral students, particularly within the context of the courses run by the Institut Pasteur, to increase their skills in new methods in the field of microscopy and functional investigation.

Analytical and preparative cytometry laboratory

This laboratory conducts experiments in cell analysis and sorting by flow cytometry, as well as imaging by laser scanning and confocal microscopy. Flow analysis is generally available on a 'self-service' basis. However, the laboratory personnel provide flow sorting and image analysis services. Only the latter services are invoiced. The applications mainly concern characterisation and/or selection of cell types on the basis of their DNA content or various compounds (antigens, ions, etc.). In addition to maintaining and adapting the instrumentation, the department develops new protocols, helps in the interpretation of results, and monitors technological progress in the field of cell analysis using fluorescent reagents.

Protein microsequencing

This laboratory provides services both to the Institut Pasteur and external laboratories. Its main activity consists in determining amino acid sequences on purified or partially purified proteins or peptides. It also provides consultancy and development services relating to the micro-methods required to prepare samples for analysis. It has recently acquired protein chip technology.

Electron microscopy platform

The electron microscopy platform conducts high-resolution transmission and scanning electron microscopy and cryomicroscopy.

Division of informatics

The main activities of the scientific information technology division include the management of the local area network, Internet access, central servers, the Web server and databases, together with the installation of biological softwares, data backup, and management of the biology file and software program server. The scientific information technology also develops certain programs, for example, interfaces for the databases and biological softwares, and performs out algorithm research. It also performs out several training activities and runs a course at the Institut Pasteur.)

Research applications

The year 2000 focused on the restructuring of existing technology transfer activities and the launch of an ambitious policy to promote the creation of biotechnology start-ups.

Restructuring of technology transfer activities

Creation of the technology transfer committee

The committee, chaired by a scientific coordinator, consists of 28 scientists, representing all the main research areas of the Institut Pasteur. The scientists have a privileged relationship with researchers looking to profitably exploit their inventions. In the year 2000, the committee:

reviewed over 200 innovations,

awarded funding to 29 projects in order to support innovation,

analysed the technology transfer potential of 14 transversal research programmes,

reviewed 10 start-up creation projects,

organised scientific contacts with our industrial partners (Aventis Pasteur, BioRad, Pasteur Cerba, Procter & Gamble, etc.), in the form of scientific seminars or calls for proposals.

Reorientation of the policy to protect our inventions

This policy is deliberately broader at an upstream level, resulting in the extremely detailed review of patent extensions abroad, a year later, when the information necessary for risktaking (scientific, patent and economic) is available. In 2000, 81 invention declarations (involving 40% of the research units) were filed. Furthermore, 40 patent applications were filed, bringing the Institut Pasteur patent portfolio to 330 priority applications.

Consolidation of strategic partnerships

The Institut Pasteur took steps to enhance and consolidate two of its major partnerships:

in vaccines, with Aventis Pasteur (formerly, Pasteur Mérieux Connaught), with the signing of a new 8-year agreement and considerable preparatory work on the creation of transversal research programmes for vaccinology of the future;

in diagnostics and laboratory reagents, with BioRad (which acquired Pasteur Sanofi Diagnostics in September 1999), with the signing of a new 4-year agreement. The new agreements reflect the companies commitment to being associated with the research conducted on the campus together with the Institut Pasteur desire to see its results rapidly made available to public health.

Two-fold increase in resources in the technology transfer field

The number of managers has increased from 3 to 6, with introduction of modern licensing tools. A total of 15 new patent licences have been concluded, bringing the total number to 157. Licence revenues have increased to FF 280 million, representing a significant rise in recent years. Furthermore, 8 new contracts for research and development projects have been implemented, bringing industrial co-financing of Institut Pasteur research units to FF 20 million.

Growth in the use of the Pasteur brand

Two agreements have been concluded:

with the Institut Pasteur in Lille, within the context of its activities in the food sector,

with PasteurMed, in the field of multimedia content relating to health.

Consolidation of our agreements with major research organisations

The technology transfer agreements with INSERM, CNRS, and the Paris VI and Paris VII universities have been renegotiated in order to enhance synergy.

Creation of biotechnological start-ups

Profitable exploitation of research has increasingly become an activity in which the Institut Pasteur is forced to compete with universities and research centres worldwide. It is therefore necessary to use resources that are constantly developing. It is recognised worldwide that, in 5 to 10 years, at least 50% of technology transfers will take place through start-ups created by researchers on the basis of existing patents. The Institut Pasteur has decided to become actively involved in this trend:

by creating the Pasteur BioTop incubator, inaugurated on 8 December 2000, by Mr. Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg, Minister of Research. The start-up incubator, which can house up to 12 young companies, will have the following characteristics: - exclusively accepting projects in line with the Institut Pasteur strategic themes, - supplying several services of an industrial, technical, legal, administrative and commercial nature, - strongly contributing to managerial support, - offering financing solutions over the first two years of corporate life.

by promoting the creation, by the Compagnie Financière Edmond de Rothschild Banque, of a venture capital mutual fund, 'Biodiscovery', dedicated to biotechnology. In 2000, three new companies were created:

Cellectis (genetic repair)
Evologic (directed evolution)
PasteurMed (health-care multimedia services).
Furthermore, four companies are in the pre-incubation phase and many others are in the study phase. The following should also be acknowledged:
the results of Texcell, a company specialising in microbiological safety, present on the campus for several years, which achieved its qualitative and quantitative objectives in the year 2000;
the successful fundraising of our first two start-ups, Hybrigénics and Diatos, which have shown exemplary development and represent models for the newly created companies.