It is possible to state as a general principle that the mesodermic phagocytes, which originally (as in the sponges of our days) acted as digestive cells, retained their role to absorb the dead or weakened parts of the organism as much as different foreign intruders.
Elie Metchnikoff, 1884
Pasteur and Koch demonstrated that microbes can be vectors of diseases. A few years later, Metchnikoff and Ehrlich showed that we are protected from microbes by an immune system. Ever since, immunologists have worked to understand how the immune system identifies and eliminates pathogens, at all levels of molecular, cellular and physiologic complexity. The Department of Immunology, which includes 14 research units and 166 scientists, has a shared interest in exploring the fundamental processes of immunity with the hope to provide new insight into disease pathogenesis, inspire novel vaccines and design unique therapeutic strategies. Moreover, the scientists of the Department share a commitment to training the next generation of scientists dedicated to research excellence in the field of immunology.
Research conducted in the Department is organized into three main themes:
Development of the immune system
From the earliest hematopoietic precursors which appear in the yolk sac to the organization of lymphoid tissues, the competition for unique niche and resources that define the immune repertoire and the mechanisms that ensure homeostasis – the development of the immune system is intricately linked to our relationship with symbiotic microbes and its ability to respond to infectious agents and malignant transformation. Research units headed by Ana Cumano, James Di Santo, Gerard Eberl, Ludovic Deriano and Antonio Freitas are helping to advance our understanding in these areas.
Innate and adaptive immune responses.
Spanning from cell trafficking, proliferation and differentiation during host response to the signaling pathways that regulate these processes – the understanding of how the innate and adaptive immune responses function requires a coordinated effort employing cutting-edge biochemical, imaging and cell physiology approaches. Research units headed by Andres Alcover, Philippe Bousso, Pierre Bruhns, Caroline Demangel and Sandra Pellegrini have been providing critical information into the cross-talk between the two arms of our immune system, as well as the mechanisms by which micro-organisms subvert the host response for their own benefit.
Immune pathology and Immunotherapy.
The immune response is often referred to as a double-edged sword, pathogenic in the case of chronic infection and autoimmunity, but protective in its control of cells undergoing malignant transformation or in the case of vaccination. Research units headed by Matthew Albert, Claude Leclerc, Hugo Mouquet and Lars Rogge investigate the regulation of immunity in disease with the aim to translate their research into new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.
Research in the department is highly collaborative, with its programs not only cutting across the stated thematic areas, but also forging important links to virology, bacteriology, parasitology, cell biology, genetics, developmental biology, neurology and epidemiology.
As part of a century-long commitment to understanding host immunity, the Department has taken the lead in training the future generations of immunologists. Notably, members of the department organize what is considered the top Immunology Masters course in France, attracting students from all over the world, who benefit from lectures in fundamental and applied immunology. Research Units within the department also welcome masters, graduate and post-doctoral students. Currently there are 34 students, at different stages of their training.
The Department of Immunology would like to thank its generous sponsors, whose support enables to maintain a robust academic environment within the department.