For its third edition, the 2018 François Sommer "Humans and Nature" Prize has been awarded to the French Phage Network Réseau Bactériophage France, set up by Laurent Debarbieux (Institut Pasteur, Paris). This French scientific prize of international dimension is dedicated to multidisciplinary research works, with innovative and promising perspectives concerning relations between human and nature.
Upholding the philanthropic legacy of its founders, the François Sommer Foundation supports and recognizes initiatives that contribute to sustainable development and help bring humans closer to nature. The biennial François Sommer "Humans and Nature" Prize was set up in 2012. It goes to an innovative, multidisciplinary project in the fields of physical, life and human sciences or artistic creation.
This year, the Foundation chose to award the prize to the French Phage Network Réseau Bactériophages France, which was set up to promote, coordinate and find applications for research into interactions between bacteriophages and bacteria in various scientific disciplines, while also fostering cooperation and synergies between laboratories.
Bacteriophages (or "bacterial viruses"), discovered more than a century ago, now serve as an exceptional biological model for both fundamental research – for example examining the molecular mechanisms involved in the various stages of a viral infection – and potential applications. Using bacteriophages to tackle pathogenic bacteria represents an increasingly persuasive therapeutic approach, especially given the emergence and spread of multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria. More and more scientists in France are turning to bacteriophages in their research and medical applications.
Réseau Bactériophages France, set up in 2015 by Laurent Debarbieux, Head of the Interactions Bacteriophages Bacteria in Animals group, is an interdisciplinary network, with members from a variety of fields. The prize will provide a further boost to this interdisciplinary community and improve the visibility of its work.
The official award ceremony took place on November 14 and was attended by Philippe Dulac, President of the Foundation, and members of the award panel including Yves Coppens and Cédric Villani. The prize was collected by Laurent Debarbieux, also a member and representative of the Réseau Bactériophages France network.