Molecular and structural basis of life sciences

This Institute studies structures, dynamics, interactions, assemblies and transformations of molecules in living organisms.

Developing our knowledge of biological systems is essential for more effectively predicting and imitating the way a living organism works, particularly for therapeutic purposes.

Scientific and medical challenges

The structural and functional characterization of molecules (isolated or combined in complexes), along with the quantification, modeling and prediction of biological phenomena, requires multidisciplinary research to be conducted involving biology, physics, chemistry, bioinformatics and mathematics. The challenges are at once scientific, medical and technological with, for example, the development of new molecular and subcellular imaging methods.

Exploring, understanding and curing

Identifying the structure of a protein or an assembly of several proteins sheds light on its role in a disease, thereby ultimately paving the way to the development of drugs or prevention of resistance mechanisms for some of them.
By cutting to the heart of biological phenomena in this way, we are increasing our understanding of networks of interactions and reactions between biomolecules. This "systemic" overview makes it easier to identify those mechanisms behind disruptions that are caused by a disease.

"Synthetic biology": imitating nature to protect it better

The production, from natural biological elements, of artificial systems endowed with a specific function is a key challenge for such fields as the deciphering of energy mechanisms or development of molecular machines. This is because our ability to reproduce certain natural phenomena, like photosynthesis for example, is a potential source of major technological breakthroughs.
This deeper knowledge of the “molecular world” also makes it possible to characterize the harmful compounds on which more effective management of the risks of chemical substances depends. The use of biological compounds to reduce the toxic and polluting effects of a chemical industry under pressure to become "green" is a fine example of practical application of research on living organism structures.





An essential multidisciplinary and integrated approach

Increasing our knowledge of the molecular and structural bases of the living organism is only possible through combined approaches.

  • Biophysical approaches
    to obtain "images" of molecular functioning and “see” the living organism more clearly.
  • Molecular modeling
    to gather together data on the chemical, structural and dynamic properties of biomolecules.
  • Biochemistry
    to monitor, understand and analyze all the transformations that occur in a cell (energy generation, molecule production, damage repair and waste elimination for example).
  • Chemistry for living organisms
    to imitate molecules or biological reactions and therefore provide tools for studying biological functions that are likely to thwart a pathological mechanism and identify new active molecules.
  • Biomathematics
    to create dynamic or quantitative modeling of biological systems.
  • Bioinformatics approach
    as a cross-disciplinary aspect involving both "mining" (simulation of a property) and prioritizing analyses or ad hoc data processing.

Directors : Hugues Lortat-Jacob and Carine Giovannangeli

Experts Commitee : see ITMO presentation

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