The Institut Pasteur and INRAE are strengthening their partnership to tackle infectious and toxic risks and prevent zoonotic diseases. Christophe d'Enfert, Senior Executive Scientific Vice-President at the Institut Pasteur, tells us about the importance of this partnership that focuses on the biology of living systems with the aim of improving animal and human health.
The Institut Pasteur and INRAE have signed a new framework agreement (read in French) for collaboration until 2026. INRAE, the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, was established on January 1, 2020. It was created following a merger between INRA, the National Institute for Agricultural Research, and IRSTEA, the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for the Environment and Agriculture. It is France's first research organization to specialize in the three scientific fields of agriculture, food and the environment. The Institut Pasteur is a biomedical research center focused on the biology of living systems. It is a recognized global leader, notably in the fields of infectious diseases, microbiology and immunology.
Christophe d'Enfert, Senior Executive Scientific Vice-President at the Institut Pasteur
What does this partnership with INRAE represent for the Institut Pasteur?
Christophe d'Enfert: It all began with the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). In the late 1990s, the Institut Pasteur began working more closely with INRA when it turned its attention to the microbiology of the digestive tract. INRA was committed to exploring this research area, especially by developing its expertise in metagenomics, and was keen to work with experts specializing in the bacteria and fungi in the digestive tract. This was how two Institut Pasteur units came to be supported by INRA twenty years ago: one that worked on Listeria (the bacteria that cause listeriosis) and another on Candida albicans (the yeast responsible for candidiasis).
The Fungal Biology and Pathogenicity Unit, which still works on Candida albicans, is now an INRAE laboratory hosted at the Institut Pasteur (see the unit's recent publication Antifungal therapy: Csa6 protein, a potential target for treatment development.
INRAE and Institut Pasteur teams are also working together on a European project coordinated by ANSES* on the One Health concept. Following these first successful collaborative ventures, we are keen to strengthen our links on new topics.
* The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety
Will another Institut Pasteur team be supported by INRAE?
C.d'E.: Yes, the team led by Anavaj Sakuntabhai which is working on the topic Ecology and Emergence of Arthropod-borne Pathogens. Sarah Bonnet, a Research Director at INRAE, arrived in the team a few months ago with recognized expertise on tick-borne diseases. The Institut Pasteur has long been an expert in the field of borreliosis research and it was a natural step to expand and strengthen our teams on this topic. Ticks are insects in our environment that are vectors for disease. Not all the microorganisms carried by ticks are dangerous for humans, but some are (see the fact sheet Lyme Disease (Lyme borreliosis)). So we are delighted that Sarah Bonnet has joined the Institut Pasteur to pursue her research on ticks and contribute her expertise as a parasitologist and medical and veterinary entomologist.
This collaboration with INRAE illustrates the link between biology and health.
C.d'E.: Indeed, the collaboration between the Institut Pasteur and INRAE also focuses on fields of mutual interest, like the links between the microbiota, nutrition and non-communicable diseases, and the biological safety of food.
Taking a broader view, why are partnerships important for the Institut Pasteur?
C.d'E.: They have always been important and will become increasingly so in a competitive environment where it is advantageous to share expertise. Our 2019-2023 Strategic Plan confirms our aim to strengthen national partnerships to boost the Institut Pasteur’s scientific excellence.
- Read the press dispatch on the partnership with INRAE, which contains more details about fields of mutual interest (in French)
- Read the interview with the Institut Pasteur's Senior Executive Scientific Vice-President in the 2021 Annual Report, in which he particularly mentions partnerships
- See two recent Institut Pasteur publications on ticks:
- Ticks live on the backs of small mammals, which the Institut Pasteur studied some years ago in woodland in the Greater Paris region to elucidate the risk of diseases being transmitted to humans.
- The Institut Pasteur also investigated the speed of transmission by infected ticks, emphasizing the importance of removing ticks as soon as possible after a bite to prevent infection.
Last but not least, the French Gut project...
A research project known as French Gut, led by INRAE in collaboration with the Paris Public Hospital Network (AP-HP) – another of the Institut Pasteur's long-standing partners – was launched in mid-September 2022. The aim is to map the microbiota of people in France and to investigate how it interacts with our health. The Institut Pasteur is one of the many partners associated with this large-scale project. There has been huge progress in knowledge about the microbiota over the past 20 years and the Institut Pasteur has played a role in these advances. It has several teams working on the subject. "For example, we are researching predictive factors for the variability of the microbiota and the way in which these factors influence inflammatory bowel disease. We are also investigating the microbiota of mosquitoes that transmit diseases to humans, and we have a large-scale research program on the link between the microbiota and the brain. These are just some examples of our expertise in the field, and we hope to be able to make a valuable contribution to INRAE's French Gut project," explains Christophe d'Enfert.