A little over 1,300 research scientists, and just as many engineers and technicians, work in the microbiology and infectious diseases field in France, mainly for the Institut Pasteur, Inserm, CNRS, INRA, IRD and CEA. These specialities account for roughly 12% of all French biology and health research teams, and 20% of French publications in the top 1%.
The Institute of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (IMMI) focuses on an essentially highly multidisciplinary theme: without being exhaustive, this concerns structural biology, cellular microbiology, virology, bacteriology, immunology, animal health, the environment, public health, human and social sciences. Apart from for HIV and hepatitis, through the ANRS, there is no proper management or coordination between teams and disciplines. This shortcoming holds up the implementation of founding research projects, in fundamental and translational research. To improve this situation, the IMMI expert panel recommends taking three measures.
This involves increasing the visibility of existing stakeholders nationwide (research organizations, universities, competitiveness clusters, thematic networks/centers for research and health care or for advanced research, foundations, etc.) and organizing them into a network. New large centers – such as the research center for infectious diseases in Lyons – will continue to be set up. These initiatives need a detailed inventory of the tools and platforms open to the scientific community to be drawn up beforehand, which will lead to a public directory being compiled. At the same time, these initiatives will also identify what needs there are in terms of chemotherapy screening, bioinformatics, genetics, vaccinology or multi-pathogen animal houses with imaging for example. This list is obviously not exhaustive.
With no specific funding for launching invitations to tender, the IMMI must play a constructive role in programming the ANR through the active involvement of its experts in scientific panels and steering committees for various programs. There are other sources of funding, particularly through clinical research programs in hospitals (PHRCs), some foundations like Finovi and the CTRS Infectiopole Sud, or the private sector (Fondation Total, Fondation Mérieux, Sanofi-Aventis and the Access to Medication program, etc.). All of these will be identified and listed. Concerning HIV infection and hepatitis, the ANRS will continue to oversee programming and funding. Special attention will be paid to translational research and research conducted in partnership with countries in the south.
The IMMI is due to set up working groups and joint initiatives, run by 2 or 3 experts in charge of laying down guidelines for the scientific community, which may eventually lead to invitations to tender being launched. Scientific discussions will be held on parasitology, especially concerning malaria as this discipline has been somewhat neglected since the Pal+ program ended. The same exercise will be carried out for mycology. Partnership actions with the South are currently carried out by many different French research bodies, requiring a strategic collaboration policy to be defined, particularly as regards geographical space and thematic priorities. These discussions, initiated by representatives of the main research bodies involved in this partnership, should be held by the IMMI. Lastly, the present times highlight the importance of swift response in a crisis, such as the emergence of swine flu (H1N1 virus). The IMMI is coordinating the creation of multidisciplinary research groups rallying together several organizations on this theme, along with the operational stakeholders and French Ministries of Health and Research.
Director of the Institute of Immunology, Inflammation, Infectiology and Microbiology