By Chris Adams
Louis Pasteur, the 19th French biologist, microbiologist and chemist, was a pioneer in vaccine research who led discoveries in developing vaccines and treating diseases. His work has helped reduce deaths and disease in countless ways.
Today at the Institute Pasteur in Paris, his legacy continues in the methods researchers use to identify disease and develop vaccines to prevent them. In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Dr. Arnaud Fontanet detailed the vaccination-development process, from identification of an emerging disease to creation of a vaccine to address it.
Fellows also heard from Pasteur President Stewart Cole about the institute’s rich history, including 10 researchers who have won the Nobel Prize.
Emerging infectious diseases are one of the institute’s prime focuses, given that there have been 50 new infectious diseases since 1980 and that infectious diseases cause 10 million deaths each year.
Fontanet (bio, Twitter) described the six dimensions that drive Pasteur’s vaccine work, including research on the biology of the pathogens, how they interact with their hosts, how infectious disease emerge, and the development of new approaches in diagnosing and vaccinating against them.
He also described the development of a new vaccine, including what happens during the “peace time” before a new pathogen emerges to the steps taken when an outbreak happens.
Using the Zika virus as an example, Fontanet detailed the process, step-by-step, from Zika’s emergence in Africa decades ago, to its acceleration in Africa in the mid-2000s, to how it traveled to Southeast Asia and then across the Pacific Ocean to South America in the mid-2010s. In the last five years, the Institute Pasteur International Network has published more than 250 articles on Zika.