Six young graduates from the Pasteur Network members, outside of the Institut Pasteur, were honored at the Institut Pasteur's PhD Graduation Ceremony on December 17th , 2021. This ceremony marking the end of their academic career was held online with presentations that highlighted their work and investment in the scientific excellence of the Pasteur Network.
On December 17th, 2021, the ceremony in honor of the Institut Pasteur's 2020-2021 newly graduated students took place. Organized by the Education Department, this ceremony recognizes the graduates of the past academic year and marks the beginning of their scientific careers every year since 2013.
Led by Prof. Stewart Cole, President of the Institut Pasteur, this 9th edition gave the floor to Prof. Edith Heard, Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Laureate Inserm Grand Prix 2017 and Professor at the Collège de France as guest of honor. She presented her past achievements as well as her hopes for a science without gender or borders. In her speech, she took the time to go back over her career punctuated by serendipity, thus underlining the importance of an essential Pasteurian value: perseverance.
The graduates were then introduced by Monica Sala, Director of the Education Department at the Institut Pasteur for researchers from the Institut Pasteur in Paris and Jennifer Heurley, Deputy Director of International Affairs Department of the Institut Pasteur for scientists from the other 32 members of the Pasteur Network.*
“High Content Screening and Proteomic Analysis Identify a Kinase Inhibitor that rescues pathological phenotypes in a Patient-Derived Model of Parkinson's Disease”
National Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece
Hellenic Pasteur Institute, Greece
Nasia Antoniou is currently a Laboratory scientist in a Greek biotechnology company. She completed her PhD at the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology and Stem Cells at the Hellenic Pasteur Institute under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Matsas where she studied neural function in Parkinson's disease. Nasia Antoniou was the first in this laboratory to make electro-physiological recordings showing the bioelectric activity of neurons. She used calcium imaging for her recordings but also a technique called “patch clamp” which measures the electrical activity of a microscopic fragment of cell membrane.
Thanks to her collaboration with Dr. Regis Grailhe, Director of the Technology Development Platform of the Pasteur Institute of Korea, she went to South Korea to discover potential new molecules against Parkinson's disease through high-throughput screening.
Learning new techniques and developing innovative approaches remains at the heart of Nasia Antoniou's projects.
"Genetic determinants and evolution of drug resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Cambodia, a country with a high burden of tuberculosis"
University of Montpellier, France
Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, Cambodia
Sokleaph Cheng is a researcher and Deputy Director of the Medical Biology Laboratory at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge. She has just completed a PhD in health biology. This is in addition to her Doctor of Pharmacy degree specialized in Medical Biology from the University of Health Sciences in Phnom Penh.
Her PhD project in Health Biology was focused on the evolution of drug resistance and genetics in Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Cambodia, also known as Koch's bacillus, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis, a widespread disease in Cambodia that can present a multi-drug resistant form.
Currently, her projects deal with antibiotic resistance and more particularly its emergence and transmission between ecosystems. She uses a “One Heath” approach, as with the ARCAHE project. The latter aims to understand the circulation of antibiotic resistance at the interface between humans, animals and the environment in Cambodia.
"Tick-borne diseases in Belgium: The incidence and economic burden of Lyme borreliosis and the occurrence of other tick-borne infections"
Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
Laurence Geebelen works on the surveillance of tick-borne diseases, other vector-borne diseases and zoonoses from Belgium. Ticks were already the focus of her PhD in Public Health Sciences, started in late 2015, at the Catholic University of Leuven and Sciensano.
Laurence Geebelen graduated as a pharmacist with a Master's degree in pharmaceutical care at the Catholic University of Leuven in 2013. In 2014, she then specialized in tropical medicine and international health with a postgraduate course followed at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. This course sparked her interest in the topics related to infectious diseases, epidemiology and public health which became her main research fields.
Laurence Geebelen continues her career as a scientist in the unit that hosted her for her thesis, the Epidemiology of Environmentally Related Infectious Diseases Unit of Sciensano.
"Dynamics of dengue in New Caledonia: role of the vector Aedes aegypti in viral transmission"
University of New Caledonia, France
Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie, France
Olivia O'Connor joined the Dengue and Arbovirosis Research and Expertise Unit of the Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie as an engineer. The research work that she has conducted so far had two main objectives related to the study of arboviruses, viruses transmitted by blood-feeding arthropods such as fleas or mosquitoes.
The first one concerns the molecular characterization of these arboviruses, at the scale of New Caledonia and the surrounding Pacific region. The second is more specifically interested in mosquito vectors of the Aedes aegypti species. On them, she is studying the “fitness” or selective value of the transmission of viruses isolated in New Caledonia, and in particular for the dengue virus, including the strategy of dengue disease control by the Wolbachia bacterium, which is underway in the territory.
This work has highlighted the importance and complexity of the interactions between a virus and its vectors in the emergence of a new arbovirosis as well as the role of environmental modification in this dynamic. In the future, Olivia O'Connor would like to elucidate the factors behind the evolution of arboviruses and their adaptation to environmental changes that are still poorly understood.
"Exchange of resistance genes between bacteria from different biotopes"
University of the West Indies - Pointe-à-Pitre, France
Institut Pasteur de la Guadeloupe, France
Matthieu Pot studies bacterial resistance to antibiotics or antibiotic resistance from the Institut Pasteur de la Guadeloupe. Graduated of the École Supérieure d'Ingénieurs en Agroalimentaire de Bretagne atlantique, ESIAB, as a microbiology engineer, he continued his university studies with a Master's degree in Zoonoses and Environment at the University of Limoges.
In 2017, he joined the Institut Pasteur de la Guadeloupe where he began his thesis project under the direction of Antoine Talarmin at the Microbial Ecosystems Interaction Laboratory. His project focuses on antibiotic resistance with a global approach called “One Health”. He thus highlighted the crucial role of wastewater treatment plants and wastewater in the diffusion of enterobacteria and plasmids presenting antibiotic resistance in local fauna, thanks to extensive fieldwork, phenotypic and bioinformatics analyses.
To continue his research on antibiotic resistance and microbial ecology, Matthieu Pot should soon join the Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie, still among the Pasteur Network.
"Contribution of the MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry to the surveillance of mosquito vectors of arboviruses"
University of New Caledonia, France
Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie, France
Antsa Rakotonirina has been interested in medical entomology, or the study of insects, for eight years. Originally from Madagascar, she completed her pre-doctoral studies at the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar from 2013 to 2017. Her research topics at the time focused on mosquito species identification and flea population genetics in Madagascar.
In 2018, Antsa Rakotonirina was awarded a doctoral fellowship from the Calmette & Yersin program to complete her dissertation at the Pasteur Institute of New Caledonia. She was interested in the contribution of identification techniques such as MALDI-TOF for “Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time Of Flight” mass spectroscopy in the surveillance of mosquito vectors of arborviruses.
Today, as a post-doctoral fellow at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, mosquitoes are still at the heart of the research projects carry out by Antsa Rakotonirina. She continues to identify mosquito species and to detect microorganisms they host using MALDI-TOF technology. In the future, she would like to work in thematic relating to the discovery of new pathogens in mosquitoes with the hope of succeeding in developing ambitious projects in medical entomology.
*Due to the complex health context related to the COVID-19 pandemic, only four graduates were able to present their research on this occasion out of the six initially planned.