February 28 - March 2, 2023
As part of the Institut Pasteur’s increasing number of international collaborations worldwide, in countries such as Japan, India and the United States, a Pasteurian delegation traveled to San Francisco in February to co-lead a scientific symposium at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) with the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI). The Institut Pasteur is developing a partnership with UCSF-QBI to create a center of excellence for emerging infectious diseases. In addition to reinforcing the partnership, during the 3-day trip the team presented the center’s ten-year plan and missions at an event hosted by the Résidence de France, met representatives of the local biotechnology sector, and led scientific educational outreach at local high school, Lycée français de San Francisco.
SCIENTIFIC SYMPOSIUM ON EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES, a strategic axis of the partnership
On February 28, the Pasteurian team, their QBI counterparts, and an audience of approximately 150 interested parties of mostly scientific affiliation, were welcomed to the Emerging Infectious Diseases Symposium by UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood and Mireille Guyader, Counselor for Science and Technology, at the Embassy of France in the United States.
This UCSF-based scientific symposium jointly led by the Institut Pasteur and UCSF-QBI took place in the Byers Auditorium at UCSF's Genentech Hall on the Mission Bay campus.
In the presence of François Romaneix, Senior Executive Vice President of the Institut Pasteur, and Christophe D’Enfert, Senior Executive Scientific Vice President of the Institut Pasteur, who gave opening remarks, Pasteurian and QBI researchers shared their most recent research on infectious diseases, a strategic axis of the partnership.
Scientists from the Institut Pasteur presented the following work from their labs:
- Olivier Schwartz, Head of the Virus and Immunity Unit, presented the mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron multiplication and escape of the host immune response, with a focus on the recently circulating Omicron subvariants and their resistance to neutralizing antibodies.
- Melanie Hamon, Head of the Chromatin and Infection Unit ,presented host pathogen interactions, and specifically how bacteria modify host genome architecture through chromatin modifications, a process that is important both during virulent infection and during homeostatic interactions.
- Gerald Spaeth, Director of the Parasites and Insect Vectors Department and Head of the Molecular Parasitology and Signaling Unit, presented work on the neglected, protozoan parasite Leishmania. He reminded the audience that neglected parasitic diseases will be emerging in the future in the US and the EU due to climate change and population displacement. He laid out a strategic plan for collaboration between QBI and both his unit and his department.
- Caroline Demangel, Head of the Immunobiology and Therapy Unit, whose specialties include immunomodulation by mycobacteria, presented a research project on a mycobacterial toxin that could lead to the identification of new anti-viral agents. This project benefited from collaboration with researchers from UCSF.
Scientists from the UCSF-QBI community presented the following work:
- Shaeri Mukherjee presented data on a Legionella pneumophila effector protein that functions as a unique tRNA mimic and blocks protein synthesis with similar potency as ricin, one of the most powerful toxins known. She highlighted the usefulness of pathogens being repurposed as cell biology tools.
- Kliment Verba presented a cryo-EM structure of CoV-2 Nsp2 protein and how structural, evolutionary and mass spec analysis shed light on the function of this critical yet understudied viral protein.
- Melanie Ott presented a new cloning method (pGLUE) to rapidly assemble full-length SARS-CoV-2 genomes and replicons. Using this method, the Ott Lab mapped Omicron (BA.1) attenuation to mutations in NSP6 and showed that Omicron NSP6 cannot efficiently mobilize lipid droplets to fuel viral RNA replication.
"The Bay Area community, including scientists and representatives of biotech, was the principal audience for the symposium. We presented the diverse scientific questions that the Institut Pasteur and QBI tackle as well as the range of technological approaches we use. A main goal was to highlight how the development of the center will further catalyze highly collaborative and cutting-edge work," says Carla Saleh, co-scientific lead of the partnership and Director of the Viruses and RNA Interference lab at the Institut Pasteur, as well as the coordinator of the Labex Integrative Biology of Emerging Disease that brings together 61 French teams.
“A conviction that tackling infectious disease cannot be done in isolation and requires international collaboration,” is at the core of the Institut Pasteur’s time-tested approach, explained Christophe D’Enfert in his opening remarks. He reminded the audience that, “The Institut Pasteur was founded in 1887 in the wake of Louis Pasteur’s discovery of the rabies vaccine. Louis Pasteur started sending his collaborators abroad to extend his approach to epidemics that raged in Southeastern Asia and Northern Africa. Such international collaboration in the service of public health – this is exactly what the center of excellence on emerging infectious diseases that the Institut Pasteur and UCSF-QBI aim to create in San Francisco will be about.”
START-UP AND LAB VISITS
While on site at the UCSF Mission Bay campus the Pasteurian delegation visited potential locations for the future Institut Pasteur UCSF-QBI center as well as the start-up Rezo, a QBI spinoff.
Keeping in mind the planned center of excellence for emerging infectious diseases, the group toured labs within UCSF-QBI premises as well as labs formerly associated with the start-up, VIR, a spin-off of UCSF. Both locations had attributes that could uniquely support the missions of the new center.
The group also stopped to tour a spin-off of QBI: Rezo Therapeutics, a biotechnology company pioneering the integrated mapping of disease networks, and a great example of successful bioscience collaboration implanted in the vibrant tech environment in the Bay Area.
QBI’s flagship laboratory was also an important stop for the delegation as it represents an historic site for this budding international partnership. It was home-base for the QBI team during the COVID-19 pandemic when collaborations with the Institut Pasteur picked up steam and communication took place around the clock about evaluating compounds predicted to block SARS-CoV-2 proliferation. (These collaborations resulted in the papers on Drug repurposing to counter COVID...(2021), and How SARS-CoV-2 hijacks human cells... (2020) described in the linked press releases.)
CONVERSATIONS: DEVELOPING THE PARTNERSHIP AND THE CENTER
During the three-day visit, delegation members held meetings with various leaders in academia and industry, as well as the French American Chamber of Commerce, the French Embassy in the United States, and the French Consulate in San Francisco. They discussed scientific and economic cooperation in the fields of bioscience and biotechnologies, conversations which helped position the center of excellence in the local landscape and provided the opportunity to lay the groundwork for future joint events.
François Romaneix, Senior Executive Vice President of the Institut Pasteur and Sam Hawgood, Chancellor of UCSF, met to discuss optimizing partnership development.
“It is a great honor to work together on the development of this partnership that will support scientific collaboration of the highest level, build on the excellence of both institutions, and pave the way for public health innovations,” said François Romaneix.
Christophe D’Enfert met with Katy Giacomini, Dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy, to discuss organizational aspects of UCSF and the relationships between the schools and institutes.
International Project Manager for the Institut Pasteur
The French Embassy’s Service for Science and Technology has expressed interest in helping finance mobility programs for young researchers between the two institutions as a show of its support. We are extremely grateful for this kind of backing on a key activity to getting the center’s activities started.
“The Institut Pasteur already has an important international aura, particularly in the field of infectious diseases, and we can only be delighted with this alliance with a leading American institution, the University of California, San Francisco,” said Mireille Guyader, Counselor for Science and Technology, at the Embassy of France in the United States which hosts the largest scientific network in the world.
“The visits on the UCSF campus in Mission Bay provided a good glimpse of what the future center of excellence might look like and the unique technological capabilities that will be available to researchers at both institutes,”commented Emmanuelle Pauliac-Vaujour, Science and Technology Attaché at the French Consulate in San Francisco.
Panel Discussion at the Residence de France
Christophe D’Enfert, the Senior Executive Scientific Vice President of the Institut Pasteur, restated the institute’s conviction in the public health and institutional benefits of moving forward with this joint scientific undertaking in the United States. “The fight against infectious diseases requires international collaboration which is a founding tenant of the Institut Pasteur, a key component of its historic success and impact. Secondly, the Institut Pasteur - UCSF-QBI collaboration has already proven to be fruitful over the past years, and through the COVID-19 pandemic. We can take the next step together with great confidence. Finally, opening a center for emerging infectious diseases in the Bay area, a hotbed for artificial intelligence, will optimize opportunities for integrating these technologies into the surveillance and study of emerging pathogens. This will improve our chances to fight these pathogens and limiting their impact on our lives and the economy.”
“What we (at UCSF) can bring in technological advances and in harnessing Silicon Valley and what the Institut Pasteur can bring from their amazing deep bench in microbiology and other aspects of immunology is very exciting. This is a case where truly one plus one equals five,” said Sam Hawgood, the Chancellor of UCSF to explain the initiative’s unique synergy. He also noted the “ground-up enthusiasm of people working together,” as a key to the continuing success of the collaboration.
Frederic Jung, the Consul General of France in San Francisco, noted the aptness of the Institut Pasteur’s presence in San Franciso and broader alliances that could ensue. "It’s logical that the Institut Pasteur – with its very large international network and extremely strong expertise -- should come and set up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there is expertise from major universities such as UCSF. With QBI as a partner, there is a huge amount of synergy to be created.”
This event provided an opportunity to raise the profile of this collaboration and engage with strategic partners. The Institut Pasteur plans to secure support within 12 months to launch a center of excellence on the UCSF campus.
Renewed engagement of Pasteurian Science in the USA
“This trip was important because we better defined collaboration conditions, common themes, and the techniques to put into place, on the other side of the ocean, that will make this center of excellence a success,” says Christophe D’Enfert. “We also connected with our network in the Bay Area, including many people in the private and public sector who are eager to see the creation of this center move forward. There is wide recognition of the positive impact for public health a center to addressing emerging infectious diseases would have.”
“It was a pleasure discussing with our colleagues from UCSF-QBI. We had such a warm welcome and fruitful discussions about launching exciting collaborations,” added Olivier Schwartz, Head of the Virus and Immunity Unit, who presented at the symposium and led educational outreach.
The next event for this continuing partnership will be a Paris-based, high-level scientific symposium on April 12 and 13, 2023, hosted by the Institut Pasteur.
The Partnership between the Institut Pasteur and UCSF-QBI
Following a very successful collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institut Pasteur and UCSF-QBI announced, in October 2022, a partnership to create a center of excellence on emerging infectious diseases. Their goal is to better understand, predict and prepare for possible future global pandemics. The research conducted within this center will contribute, among other things, to providing a rapid response and treatment options in the event of a new global pandemic, to collecting data to enrich epidemiological studies, and to better understanding the effects of global warming and massive population movements on the emergence or resurgence of infectious diseases.
This partnership between the two institutions brings together some of the world's leading experts in the field of infectious diseases. Through the Institut Pasteur - UCSF QBI partnership, these researchers will be able to work together on joint research projects in pandemic prevention and preparedness, benefiting from Pasteur's unique expertise in emerging infectious diseases, access to UCSF QBI's cutting-edge technologies, and a unique implantation in the Bay Area ecosystem which will facilitate the development of AI applications towards the multilevel study of pathogens, infectious diseases and counter-measures development.
Scientific exchange between the United States and the Institut Pasteur dates back more than a century, with American philanthropy playing a significant role in the Institut’s successes.
For example, on December 1, 1885, just six months after Louis Pasteur treated his first rabies patient, Joseph Meister, four boys from Newark, New Jersey, were bitten by a dog suspected to be rabid.
A well-known American physician, Dr. William O’Gorman, recommended that the children be sent to Pasteur for treatment and issued his appeal.
In response to this appeal, contributions from people of all means began to arrive, from the great industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and a former Secretary of State, to children from the boys’ Newark neighborhood.
In a matter of days, the fund had reached $1,000 and the four boys left for Paris to be treated by Louis Pasteur.
With the same cooperative spirit, the Institut Pasteur, during World War I, played an active role in the preparation and supply of vaccines and serums to the American Army and American Red Cross - some 800,000 doses were given to Allied Forces free of charge.
To this day, the Institut Pasteur continues to welcome thousands of American researchers in Paris. Through programs such as the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, the Pasteur Foundation perpetuates this tradition of scientific exchange.
All photos in this report are copyright Institut Pasteur / Frederic Aube 2023.