In connection with the bicentenary of Louis Pasteur’s birth, a conference entitled "Epidemics, pandemics: a never-ending story?" was held on Wednesday December 7 at the Institut Pasteur under the high patronage of the French President, Emmanuel Macron. The conference marked the end of a year of events highlighting not only the importance of research in tackling infectious diseases, but also the legacy of Louis Pasteur in helping us to understand the living world, improve human health and transmit knowledge to future generations. The speeches given by the Minister for Higher Education and Research and the Minister for Health and Prevention emphasized the inextricable links between excellence in research and public health issues.
At the Institut Pasteur, a place steeped in history and shaped by great scientific discoveries, epidemiologists, virologists, microbiologists, parasitologists, anthropologists, geneticists and veterinarians met for a one-day conference to celebrate the bicentenary of Louis Pasteur's birth and highlight the Institut Pasteur's commitment and excellence in research over the past 130 years. They shared their analyses of the oldest pandemics such as plague, tuberculosis, rabies and malaria, as well as the most recent example of COVID-19. Human history is peppered with public health crises.
"The Institut Pasteur is a recognized global leader in infectious diseases, microbiology and immunology. Since January 2020, its 500 employees have contributed to major advances in the COVID-19 epidemic, including isolating the virus and sequencing its genome, the development of diagnostic solutions, and the study and development of monoclonal antibodies. The Institut Pasteur has an ambitious strategy for responding to future pandemics. This demonstrates the impact of the research carried out here, the excellence of which is being celebrated today," says Sylvie Retailleau, Minister for Higher Education and Research.
Louis Pasteur's observation and scientific approach enabled him to make great advances and leave his mark on the history of research, medicine, and prevention through vaccination. The importance of learning from past epidemics was repeatedly emphasized at the conference, as scientific knowledge is crucial in order to be able to respond to emerging public health challenges in an era of globalization and global warming.
"Two centuries ago, Pasteur created a legacy to which we are all heir, but it is vital that we preserve this heritage. The bicentenary of his birth takes on a special meaning in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided confirmation, if any were needed, that vaccination is a pillar of public health strategy when responding to epidemics," says François Braun, Minister for Health and Prevention.
The research of the scientists and physicians of the Institut Pasteur in response to the COVID-19 crisis continues to make a significant contribution to the national and international response in this field. The National Reference Center (CNR) for Respiratory Infection Viruses hosted by the Institut Pasteur has achieved a great deal, with the support of our sequencing platforms. The first genomic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating in Europe was published in late January 2020 in order to support international research. Recently, researchers in the Humoral Immunology laboratory have identified and characterized two broad-spectrum monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, i.e. which are active against the majority of variants of concern tested in the laboratory. This discovery led to the launch of a company (SPIKIMM), supported by France 2030, which is developing these antibodies as immunotherapies for the prevention of severe forms and/or treatment of COVID-19, and for which a Phase I clinical trial is under way. Other research projects are focused on long COVID, which is a particularly important issue.
Our firm, long-term commitment to combating COVID-19 in figures* :
"Today, research into emerging infectious diseases is the top priority of the Institut Pasteur. Basic research is the cornerstone of any discovery that leads to practical and useful health applications (diagnostics, vaccines and treatments). This is the principle of the "continuum" that Louis Pasteur highlighted throughout his life," says Institut Pasteur President, Stewart Cole.
"Major epidemics affect us all, not only in terms of public health, but also in terms of their political, economic and social consequences. At a time when the One Health concept is becoming a central issue that requires us to strengthen our international cooperation, this conference is a very fitting scientific tribute to Louis Pasteur," he adds.
You can watch the replay of the event by clicking on this link: conference replay
The Institut Pasteur’s COVID-19 special report for the period 2020-2021 can be accessed here
The press release on the launch of clinical trials of SPK001, the monoclonal antibody developed by SPIKIMM against SARS-CoV-2, can be accessed here
* Sources : Secrétariat général scientifique (SGS), Centre de ressources en information scientifique (CERIS), Direction des applications de la recherche et des relations industrielles (DARRI), Institut Pasteur.