Immunology, Inflammation, Infectiology and Microbiology

Since January 2015, ITMO I3M has been coordinating research in areas of Immunology, Inflammation, Infectious disease and Microbiology (I3M).

ITMO I3M resulted from the linking of the themes “Microbiology and infectious diseases” and “Immunology and inflammation.” It aims to create a continuum between these areas of research, and develop a strategic coherence for coping with challenges, which for the most part are nearly daily societal concerns such as the emergence and re-emergence of pathogens, chronic infections, neglected infectious diseases, transmission, resistance to treatments, immunodeficiencies, inflammatory diseases, allergies, autoimmune diseases and transplantation. The response to these challenges is supported by new developments in vaccinology, biotherapies, and cell- and gene-based therapies.

The areas of research coordinated by ITMO I3M are very productive, and are often a source of pioneering concepts and crowned with success, as witnessed by the awarding of the prestigious Japan Prize to Professor Alain Fischer in January 2015, and of Nobel prizes in Medicine to Profs Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier in 2008, and to Prof. Jules Hoffmann in 2011. This international recognition, maintained for many years, puts France in the forefront these disciplines.

Scientific and Medical Issues

Issues and challenges in Infectious diseases and microbiology

Infectious and parasitic diseases are the second most common cause of mortality worldwide (approximately 26% of overall mortality, i.e. 17 million deaths a year). They also affect countries unevenly, depending on their geographic location and level of development.

French research on infectious and parasitic diseases currently faces several challenges:

  • the emergence of infectious diseases,
  • antibiotic resistance,
  • studying the association between infections and chronic non-communicable diseases,
  • chronic viral infections,
  • anticipating and preparing for the next public health crises.

Issues and challenges in Immunology and Inflammation

Immunology is undeniably a pivotal part of medicine, and a source of prophylactic solutions (vaccines) and therapeutic agents in many medical disciplines. Although the growing body of knowledge allows a better understanding of the development and maintenance of the body’s defence mechanisms, it has been observed that any malfunction/dysregulation, disruption in homeostasis or abnormality is a source of inflammatory, allergic, or autoimmune disease, or disease associated with impaired tolerance or deficiencies in the immune defences. Whether acute or chronic, these diseases have a significant impact on public health, and because their incidence is constantly rising, they constitute a major challenge to health. Moreover, support for the development of basic research is essential, particularly in the following areas:

  • Innate and adaptive immunity,
  • Microbiotas (homeostasis–dysfunction, and impact on the major functions of the body),
  • The development of effective vaccines for new infectious agents, or adapted to the needs of new populations, and their acceptability,
  • Immunotherapies, including next generation antibodies, biotherapies and grafting/transplantation,
  • Allergic and inflammatory diseases, in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms leading to dysregulation of homeostasis (development of new models, role of microorganisms, role of sterile inflammation, cellular and molecular mechanisms, and genetic and environmental factors involved in the occurrence and prevalence of these conditions.

In addition to these themes, another purpose of ITMO I3M is to conduct reflection and the organisation of research on the following themes:

Research in partnership with the southern countries, and establishment of coordinated actions

Created in March 2010, the Aviesan Sud group provides geostrategic coordination for “French” research in “southern” countries. The goal is the development of new products, as well as the production and distribution of effective drugs that are no longer being manufactured, or in areas that have been abandoned by the pharmaceutical industry because they are unprofitable.

Three coordinated actions have been established, for malaria, tuberculosis and neglected infectious diseases.

These coordinated actions, each of which relies on a steering committee of ten or so members, are aimed at assisting these scientific communities to structure and coordinate responses to calls for proposals (such as the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, EDCTP, 5%), to reflect on the major scientific issues of the discipline (by organising colloquia and half-days of study), and to enable a better dialogue between researchers from different institutions by placing digital resources at their disposal (a Web platform, an online directory, and a website).

Research in between-crises and crisis settings:

Our societies, both locally and globally, are regularly confronted by health crises associated with emerging infectious diseases, usually of viral or bacterial origin. Unfortunately, in most countries, suitable schemes for coping with these crises are inadequate or even absent.

In June 2013, the ITMO established a consortium called REACTing (REsearch and ACTion targeting emerging infectious diseases) to 1) improve preparation for research in periods between crises and 2) fund and put in place research projects during periods of epidemic crisis. This consortium is organised around a steering committee of some 15 specialists in human health and animal health, and relies on a scientific committee of 8 members and methodological centres located in the North (F. Mentré, Bichat University Hospital) and the South (A. Fontanet, Institut Pasteur).

The REACTing scheme made it possible to enlist French research teams for the chikungunya epidemic in the Antilles, and for Ebola from the time the first cases were notified. In October 2014, it was strengthened by the establishment of the Ebola task-force, a specific interministerial organisation coordinated by Prof. Jean-François Delfraissy, to manage actions to combat the virus by pursuing three main objectives: (i) control and eradication of the epidemic; (ii) management of other health emergencies unrelated to Ebola; (iii) anticipation of coming crises.

Director: Yazdan Yazdanpanah

Co-Director: Bruno Lucas
Deputy Directors: Evelyne Jouvin-Marche and Bernadette Murgue
Scientific advisor: Patrice Debré
Assignment managers: Yoann Allier and Sandrine Rodriguez
Assistant: Christelle Hubert

ITMO I3M Expert Committee: Brigitte AUTRAN, Ulrich BLANK, Philippe BOUSSO, Frédéric BRINGAUD, Priscille BRODIN, Sophie BROUARD, Michel COGNE, François-Loïc COSSET, Xavier De LAMBALLERIE, Geneviève De SAINT BASILE, Jean-Claude DESENCLOS, Roger LE GRAND, Marc LECUIT, Thierry LEFRANCOIS, Thierry PINEAU, Marie-Cécile PLOY, Dominique PONTIER, Philippe SANSONETTI, Frédéric SIMARD, Naomi TAYLOR, Anne TISCOPOULOS, Jean Nicolas TOURNIER, Eric VIVIER, Jacques VOLCKMANN and Yazdan YAZDANPANAH

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