Pasteur Institute

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Medical Center of Institut Pasteur, Paris, Rue de Vaugirard

The Pasteur Institute (Template:Lang-fr) is a French non-profit private foundation dedicated to the study of biology, micro-organisms, diseases, and vaccines. It is named after Louis Pasteur, who made some of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine at the time, including pasteurization and vaccines for anthrax bacillus and rabies virus. The institute was founded on June 4, 1887, and inaugurated on November 14, 1888.

For over a century, the Institut Pasteur has been at the forefront of the battle against infectious disease. This worldwide biomedical research organization based in Paris was the first to isolate HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 1983. Over the years, it has been responsible for breakthrough discoveries that have enabled medical science to control such virulent diseases as diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, influenza, yellow fever, and plague. Since 1908, eight Pasteur Institute scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, and the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was shared with two Pasteur scientists.


The Institut Pasteur was founded in 1887 by Louis Pasteur, the famous French chemist and microbiologist. He was committed both to basic research and its practical applications. As soon as his institute was created, Pasteur brought together scientists with various specialties. The first five departments were directed by two normaliens (graduates of the École Normale Supérieure): Émile Duclaux (general microbiology research) and Charles Chamberland (microbes research applied to hygiene), as well as a biologist, Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (morphological microbe research) and two physicians, Jacques-Joseph Grancher (rabies) and Emile Roux (technical microbe research). One year after the inauguration of the Institut Pasteur, Roux set up the first course of microbiology ever taught in the world, then entitled Cours de Microbie Technique (Course of microbe research techniques).

Pasteur's successors have sustained this tradition, and it is reflected in the Institut Pasteur's unique history of accomplishment:

  • Emile Roux and Alexandre Yersin discovered the mechanism of action of Corynebacterium diphtheriae and how to treat diphtheria with antitoxins;
  • Alexandre Yersin discovered in 1894 the pathogen of bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis;
  • Paul-Louis Simond discovered in 1898 the role of the flea in the transmission of plague;
  • Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin discovered how to culture the tuberculosis bacillus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (so called BCG or Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) at Institut Pasteur de Lille and developed in 1921 the first effective antituberculosis vaccine;
  • Alphonse Laveran got the 1907 Nobel Prize for his research on the role of protozoans as disease agents (notably, his discovery of the malaria hematozoon)
  • Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov received the Nobel Prize in 1908 for contributions to scientific understanding of the immune system
  • Constantin Levaditi and Karl Landsteiner demonstrated in 1910 that poliomyelitis is due to a filterable virus;
  • Félix d'Herelle discovered in 1917 the bacteriophage, a virus that spread only inside bacteria;
  • Jules Bordet received the Nobel prize in 1919 for his discoveries on immunity, especially the implication of antibodies and the mechanisms of action of the complement;
  • Charles Nicolle received the Nobel prize in 1928 for unraveling the mystery of how typhus is transmitted, especially the role of the louse;
  • Jean Laigret developed in 1932 the first vaccine for yellow fever;
  • André Lwoff established in 1951 the existence of proviruses
  • Pierre Lépine developed in 1954 one of the first antipolio vaccines
  • Jean-Pierre Changeux isolated in 1970 the first receptor to a neurotransmitter, the acetylcholine receptor.
  • Luc Montagnier, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and colleagues discovered the two HIV viruses that cause AIDS, in 1983 and 1985, was honored by the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The biggest mistake by the Institute was ignoring a dissertation by Ernest Duchesne on the use of Penicillium glaucum to cure infections in 1897. The early exploitation of his discovery might have saved millions of lives, especially in World War I.

A new age of preventive medicine in France was made possible by such developments from the Pasteur Institute as vaccines for tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, poliomyelitis, and hepatitis B. The discovery and use of sulfonamides in treating infections was another breakthrough. Some researchers won fame by discovering antitoxins and Daniel Bovet received the 1957 Nobel Prize for his discoveries on synthetic anti-histamines and curarizing compounds.

Since World War II, Pasteur researchers have sharply focused on molecular biology. Their achievements were recognized in 1965, when the Nobel Prize was shared by François Jacob, Jacques Monod and André Lwoff for their work on the regulation of viruses. In 1985, the first human vaccine obtained by genetic engineering from animal cells, the vaccine against hepatitis B, was developed by Pierre Tiollais and collaborators.

File:Institut Pasteur, Paris 1.jpg
The building hosting the Museum and the funeral chapel of Pasteur

The Institute's opening

Although the center against rabies, directed by Jacques-Joseph Grancher and Émile Roux is more than functional, it is also so overcrowded that it becomes necessary to build a structure that Pasteur has been calling with the name “Institute Pasteur” long before it was even built. Since Pasteur can’t, for health reasons, do it himself, he delegates the task of projecting and creating the new building, situated on rue Dutot, to two of his most trusted colleagues, Grancher and Emile Duclaux.

From the beginning the Institute experiences some economical difficulties that it is able to overcome thanks to the help of the government, some foreign rulers and Madame Boucicaut but this aid won’t in any way restrain its independence, therefore respecting Pasteur’s most important prerogative. The million francs left unused won’t be sufficient to provide for the Institute’s needs for long, but the prestigiousness and the social benefits it will bring to France justify and motivate the subsidy it will receive; also the money brought in from selling the vaccines in France and in the rest of the world will help in supporting it. In 1888 this foundation, which has obtained the full approval from the government, begins to function and from the beginning it is involved in the development and changes that France undergoes during the last decades of the 19th century.

The statutes drawn by Pasteur and later approved by Duclaux and Grancher define, besides its absolute freedom and independence, the Institutes internal repartition: a rabies division controlled by Grancher, an anthrax one in Chamberland’s hands, who will also supervise the department of microbiology while Emile Roux will deal with microbial methods applied to medicine.

The Institute during World War I and World War II

During the First World War the Institute was not only involved in the prevention of sanitary risks but also had to deal with the demands of the moment. The most urgent matter was to vaccinate the troops against typhoid fever, easily contracted by the soldiers who often had no choice but to drink from small streams or puddles from the last rain. By September 1914, the Institute was able to provide 670,000 doses of the needed vaccine and continued to produce it throughout the conflict. It is important to note that the war brought to light germs that during times of peace were concealed deep within the soil or in pockets of putrefaction and therefore it revealed the true nature and severity of some types of pathologens that would otherwise have remained unknown. That's how Michel Weinberg, Metchnikoff’s scholar, disclosed the complex etiology of gas gangrene and created a vaccine for each one of the anaerobes associated with it. The First World War involved science in warfare: a movement of active participation arose among researchers who felt the need to help France win the war. This is why Gabriel Bertrand, with Roux’s authorization, crafted a grenade based on chloropicrin and Fourneau discovered the chemical reaction that led to the formation of methylarsine chloride whose effects are even worse than the ones of other poisonous gases used during the war.

In 1938 the Institute, despite its relative poverty, built a biochemical division and another one dedicated to cellular pathology, whose direction was entrusted to the hands of Boivin (who went on to discover endotoxins that are contained in the germ's body and are freed after its death). During the same period, Andre Lwoff assumed the direction of a new microbial physiology branch built on rue Dutot. The general mobilization after France's declaration of war against Germany, in September 1939, emptied the Institute and significantly reduced its activities, as members of appropriate age and condition were recruited into the army, but the almost total absence of battles during the first months of the conflict helped maintain the sanitary situation on the front. After the occupation of France, the Germans never tried to gather information from the Institute’s research; their confidence in Germany’s advantage in this field decreased their curiosity, and their only interest was in the serums and vaccines that it could provide to their troops or the European auxiliaries they recruited. This relative freedom allowed the Institute to become, during the two years after the occupation, a great pharmacy for the Resistance thanks to the initiative of Vallery-Radot, Pasteur’s nephew. The Germans became suspicious of the Institute’s staff only after an outbreak of typhoid in a Wehrmacht division that was stationed near Paris before being sent to the Russian front. The cause of the epidemic was later found to be due to a member of the Institute stealing a culture of the germ responsible for the disease and, with the collaboration of an accomplice, infecting a large quantity of butter used to feed German troops. The fact that the epidemic spread after the Germans sold some of the butter to civilians was proof that the illness's breakout was not caused by local water quality. Afterwards, the German authorities ordered that the Institute’s stores containing microbial cultures could be opened only by authorized members; similar security problems also induced them to demand complete lists of the staff's names and functions; missing names caused the Germans to send two very valuable biologists, Dr. Wolmann and his wife, as well as other three lab assistants, to a concentration camp. The Institute was not a location for German entrenchment even during the battles for Paris’s liberation because of the honor and respect it commanded, as well as out of fear that involving it in any type of conflict might “free the ghosts of long defeated diseases”.

The Institute's economical difficulties during the Seventies

At the end of 1973 the Institute’s economic status is so worrisome that its troubles arouse the public’s interest: no one can believe that an institution which has to provide vaccines and serums for more that fifty million people can be undergoing such big economic problems, an institution that furthermore is believed to be under the government protection –like the Bank of France- and therefore shielded from bankruptcy. The causes of the decadence that is bringing the Institute to ruins are multiple, but most of them can be identified with its commercial and industrial activities and its management. Both the research and production branch have to endure the recoil caused by financial issues: the research doesn’t receive enough funds and the production, which keeps losing market ground to the new private labs, is immobilized by the antiquated mechanical supplies.

When in 1968, after disappearing for a long period, rabies comes back to France, the Institute, who owes its original celebrity to this disease’s vaccine, is replaced by other pharmaceutical industries in the production of the vaccines; yet, despite the deficiencies in the production’s organization, its members are able to produce, in 1968, over 400000 doses of vaccine against the Hong Kong influenza.

In 1971 Jacques Monod announces a new era of modernization and development: this new awakening is symbolized by the construction of a new factory where all the production’s departments are going to be reunited. Its construction will cost forty five millions and the Government, positively impressed by the Institute’s will to change, will grant it a sum of twenty million francs to bridge the deficit, followed by the people’s initiative to also accept a role in the division of the financial responsibilities.

The accomplishments of the Institute's members

Roux's cure against diphtheria and studies on syphilis

Production of antiserum at the Pasteur Institute in Paris

Not long after the Institute’s inauguration, Roux, now less occupied in the fight against rabies, resumes in a new lab and with the help of a new addition, Yersin, his experiments on diphtheria. This disease used to kill every year thousands of children: commonly called “croup” because it creates fake membranes in the small patient’s throat, therefore killing him by suffocation, deserves to be called “Horrible monster, sparrow hawk of the shadows” by Victor Hugo in his “Art of being a grandfather”. The painter Albert Gustaf Aristides Edelfelt has drawn a famous painting portraying Pasteur in his laboratory while he is trying to cure this illness that was handled at the times through procedures that were just as cruel as the illness itself.

Roux and Yersin grow the bacillus that causes it and study, thanks to various experiments they do on rabbits, its pathogenic power and symptoms, like the paralysis of the respiratory muscles. It is this last consequence of the diphtheria that provides the two researchers with a valuable clue of the nature of the disease since it is caused by an intoxication due to a toxin introduced into the organism by the bacillus, that while secreting this particular venom is able to multiply itself: they are therefore inclined to think that the bacillus owes its virulence to the toxin. After filtrating the microbial culture of the Corynebacterium diphtheriae and injecting it into the lab animals, they are able to observe all the typical signs of the sickness. Roux and Yersin establish that they are dealing with a new type of bacillus, not only able to proliferate and abundantly reproduce itself, but also capable of spreading at the same time a powerful venom and they deduce that it can play the role of antigen, that is if they can overcome the delicate moment of its injection, made especially dangerous by the toxin. Some German researchers have also discovered the diphtheria toxin and are trying to immunize some guinea pigs through the use of a vaccine: one of them, Von Behring, Robert Koch's student states that he was able to weaken small doses of the toxin. Nonetheless Roux is not convinced by this result since no one knows the collateral effects of the procedure and prefers to use serotherapy since more than one lab research- like the one accomplished by Charles Richet- demonstrated that the serum of an animal vaccinated against the disease includes the antibodies needed to defeat it. The antidiphtheria serum which is able to agglutinate the bacteria and neutralize the toxin is supplied by a horse inoculated with the viral germs and it is separated from the blood drawn from the horses’ jugular vein. Like it happened for his teacher with the antirabies vaccine, Roux will need to test the effectiveness of the product he elaborated and endure all the stress and ethical dilemmas that the first use of such a risky but also groundbreaking procedure implies. To test the serum two groups of children are chosen from two different hospitals: in the first one, which receives the serum, 338 out of 449 children survive, in the latter one, treated with the custom therapies, only 204 out of 520 do. Once the results are made public by “Figaro`” newspaper a subscription is opened to raise the money needed to provide the Institute the amount of horses necessary to produce enough serum to satisfy the national demand.

After Duclaux’s death, Roux takes his place as head of the Institute and the last research he carries out is the one on syphilis, a dangerous disease because of its immediate effects and the hereditary ripercussions that result from it. Despite Fournier’s considerable work Van Swieten’s liquid mercury is still the only known cure, although its results are doubtful and uncertain. The search for a stronger remedy against this disease is made more difficult because most animals are immune to it: it is thus not possible to experiment possible cures and study their likely side effects. The sexually transmittable Treponema pallidum ( the syphlis germ), detected by two german biologists, Schaudinne and HoffmannTemplate:Disambiguation needed, affects only the human race – where it resides in sperm, ulceration and cancers that it is able to cause- and, as it will be later discovered, some anthropoid apes, especially chimpanzees. Both Roux and Metchnikoff, consequently to the discovery that this type of ape can be contaminated with the illness, contributed with their research in creating a vaccine ( while Bordet and Wassermann elaborate a solution that is able to expose the germ’s presence in human blood): even though it is not yet a completely reliable solution it represents a noteworthy evolution compared to the previous medicines used against syphilis.

Metchnikoff’s phagocytosis theory

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov already enounced the “principle of immunization” during this voluntary exile in Italy where he went to undertake some studies, the results of which he had promptly communicated to Pasteur. The phagocytosis theory is based on the notion that phagocytes are cells that have the power to englobe foreign bodies- and above all bacteria- introduced inside an organism. German biologists opposed to his doctrine the humoral theory: they claimed to have found in Roux's serum some substances able to reveal the presence of microbes and to ensure their destruction if properly stimulated. The German scientist Eduard Buchner referred to this substances as “alexine” and two other biologists, Von Behring and Kitasato, demonstrated their lytic power towards bacteria. In 1894 one of these scientist published the result of an experiment that appeared to completely refute Metchnikoff’s ideas: using the cholera vibrio, discovered ten years before by Robert Koch, as an antigen, Richard F. J. Pfeiffer introduced it in the abdomen of a guinea pig already vaccinated against this disease and was able to observe the destruction of the vibrio in the local blood plasma, without the participation of the phagocytes. Not even this study is able to shake Metchnikoff’s belief and faith in his theory and his ideas, as well as Pfeiffer’s and Buchner’s will all contribute to the elaboration of the current theory of the immune system.

Yersin's studies on the plague

Yersin, after his research with Roux, leaves abruptly the Institute for personal reasons, without losing Pasteur’s benevolence, who never doubts that the young man is destined to great things in the scientific area and will contribute in spreading the pastorian spirit around the world. The news of a violent plague outburst in Yunman enables Yersin to truly show and reach his potential as he is called, as Pasteur’s scholar, to conduct a microbiological research of the disease. The plague he has to deal with is the “bubonic plague” which is recognizable most of the time through the abscesses, “buboes”, it provokes in its victims. Yersin looks for the germ responsible for the infection specifically in this plague-spots, tumors caused by the inflammation of the lymphatic glands which become black because of the necrosis of the tissue. After many microscopic exams he is able to state that in most of the cases the bubonic plague bacterium is located in these buboes; but in the meanwhile the Japanese scientist Kitasato also declares that he has isolated the bacterium, even though the description he provides is dissimilar to the one given by Yersin. Therefore, although at first named “Kitasato-Yersin bacillus” by the scientific community, the microbe will later assume only the latter’s name because the one identified by Kitasato, a type of streptococcus, cannot be found in the lymphatic glands. However it is Paul-Louis Simond the first to understand and describe the etiology of the plague and its modality of contamination: he observes all over the bodies of the people affected by it small flea bites, which he also found on the bodies of the dead rats that were always linked to the plague and then deduced that the fleas, which carried the bacteria, were its true cause and that they transmitted the illness by jumping from the dead rat's body to the human one and biting it.

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Paul-Louis Simond injecting a plague vaccine on the 4th of June 1898 in the Vishandas Hospital, Karachi

Calmette's and Guerin's antituberculosis vaccine

In the beginning of the 20th century the improvement of the general life conditions and the development of a more extensive conception of hygiene determines in France a slight regression in consumption cases: nonetheless the institute’s labs, like many other ones, keeps trying to find among Koch’s bacillus many singularities the one that will allow them to find an antidote to its terrible consequences. Right after he had discovered the bacillus, Koch had tried in vain to create a vaccine against it, however the injection of the filtrate he had prepared, later called old tubercolin had the effect of revealing who was phthisic from who wasn’t by causing in the latter-and not in the former-fever and light trembing.

The Institute’s newspaper was filled at the time with articles regarding tubercolosis, some of which written by Albert Calmette, who extended his research to a socio- professional category which was extremely affected by it, that is the miners in whom this disease is often anticipated or accompanied by silicosis and anchylostomiasis ( caused by a small intestinal worm that creates a state of anemia propitious to tubercolosis). After finding a better solution to anchylostomiasis, he focused on creating a vaccine using the bacillus responsible for bovine tubercolosis, very similar to the human one as it causes almost the same symptoms. Having observed that most actinomycetales are saprophytes, that is able to survive outside of living organisms, with the help of a veterinary, Camille Guerin, he attempted to create a special nutritious environment for the bacillus that, in time, altered its features by eliminating the virulence and leaving only the antigenic power. Both of the scientist knew that this arduous task would require a lot of effort and time because it was necessary to act on a large number of generations to change the genetic foundation of a species, nevertheless the velocity of the bacteria’s reproduction allowed, since it was constantly monitored, to interfere with an important phase of its evolution. The environment deemed appropriate for the denaturation of the Mycobacterium bovis was a compost of potatoes cooked in the bile of an ox treated with glycerine and Calmette reinseminated it every three weeks for thirteen years, while checking for an enfeeblement of the pathogenic power of the bacillus. Having finally lost completely its virulence, the bovine tubercolosis germ grown with their method was the principal prophylactic weapon against human tubercolosis and it helped to reduce considerably the frequency of this disease.

While experimenting on chimpanzees in Kindia, on whom he was able to test exhaustively his vaccine, Calmette also discovered that it can notably weaken some leprosy- its bacillus presents some similarities with Koch’s one- manifestations.

Calmette's work in Saigon

In Saigon Albert Calmette also created the first over seas branch of the Institute where he produced an amount of smallpox and rabies vaccines sufficient to satisfy the needs of the population and started a study on venomous snakes, particularly cobras. During these studies Calmette discovered that the power of the venom as well as the tetanus’ one could be annihilated by the use of alkaline hypochlorites and was able therefore to create a serum, effective if injected right after the cobra’s bite. Back in France, he acquired enough snakes to continue his work and create serum for the local population.

Nicolle's work on epidemic typhus

The scientist and writer Charles Nicolle while in Tunisi studied how epidemic typhus- known for the red spots it left on sick people that disappeared before their death- was transmitted. He noted that no matter how many sick people were hospitalized with typhus, the disease would not be transmitted to people who had other disease. The brilliant intuition that enabled him to guess how the contamination happened occurred to him while he was visiting the hospital: to get in he had to climb over the cadaver of a native located not far from where the in-patients left all their clothes and this is how he suddenly understood that the vector of the disease are louse. Nevertheless it wasn’t him who discovered the bacterium responsible for the disease but three other scientists, Ricketts, Wilder (1885–1959), and Prowazek who called it Rickettsia prowazekii.

Chantemesse's typhoid vaccine

During the summer of 1900, the extremely hot weather and scarcity of the hydric supply in Paris, usually insured by the Ourcq channel and by the "aqueduc de la Dhuis" force the authorities to pump water from the Seine, direct it towards the channels and to filter it in order to make it usable, a measure that in those times inevitably led to a sudden and alarming growth of the typhoid cases in Paris. The cause of the disease, a bacillus that was discovered almost twenty years before by the German bacteriologist Karl Joseph Eberth and that looks like a bodyless spider, is constantly present in this river and not even pouring extensive quantities of ozone and of lime permanganate into its water is enough to exterminate the bacteria. The difficulty in creating a vaccine is caused by the nature of the germ’s toxine: while the diphtheria bacillus secretes its toxine, the typhoid one contains inside its body the toxin which is therefore an endotoxine that is able to preserve its pathogenic power even after the death of the bacillus.

The doctor André Chantemesse, who works in the Institute, unlike most of his colleagues is positive that “the XX century will see the disappearance of the typhoid fever like the XIX century has the smallpoxes’ one”. After working in the rabies division of Rue Vaquelin and studying the microbe that causes dysentery, he seeks the collaboration of a younger bacteriologist, Fernald Widal: together they are able to immunize some guinea pigs by inoculating them with Eberth bacilluses previously killed by the heat, hence questioning the basis of the conventional vaccination method, built on the notion that only weakened -but not dead- bacteria can be used to immunize. After an extensive experimentation they develop a thorough process of immunization: three or four injections of germs treated at a temperature of 55 Celsius degrees can prevent and – if not done to late- effectively fight the fever. The bacillus doesn’t survive the heat, but the toxin it contains, adequately weakened, maintains its antigenic power and induces the production of antibodies.

Fourneau and the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry

Regarding curative medicine, it was in 1911 that it took off at the Pasteur Institute, when Ernest Fourneau created the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, which he directed until 1944, and from which emerged numerous drugs, among which one can mention the first pentavalent arsenical treatment (Stovarsol), the first synthetic alpha-adrenoreceptor antagonist (Prosympal), the first antihistamine (Piperoxan), the first active drug on heart rate (Dacorene) or the first synthetic no-depolarising muscle relaxant (Flaxedil). The discovery of the therapeutic properties of sulfanilamide by Tréfouël, Nitti and Bovet, in the laboratory of Fourneau, paved the way for the sulfamidotherapy.

The Hospital Pasteur

The Hospital Pasteur is built during the first year of the 20th century in front of the institute and is employed for a long time by the members as a field for clinical observation and experimentations of therapeutical processes elaborated by themselves. Since in the beginning it was provided with only 120 beds, every patient was so well isolated in his private room that each one could be almost considered a small pest house, ideal for quarantines. The construction of the Hospital was enabled by the gift of a rich benefactor, Madame Leabudy, while the money offered by another rich woman, the baroness Hirsch, was used to build a vast pavilion that accommodated the department of chemical biology of the Institute.

Duclaux work in the chemical biology department

The work done in the new pavilion by Duclaux clarified how the human body accomplished some of its vital functions and brought to light the role of a diastase and was finalized in resolving a controversy aroused between Pasteur and Berthelot after the publication of Claude Bernard’s posthumous essay regarding the nature of the agents implicated in some transformations that happen inside the plants like fermentation. While Pasteur believed that the only substance implied in the process of fermentation was yeast, Bernard- and Berthelot in his own way- believed that some other soluble ferment was involved: a German chemist will demonstrate the existence of this “ferment”, an intracellular diastase and will call “zymase” what we know now as enzymes. Duclaux’s study on the metabolism of nutrients will not have immediate practical applications but will reveal how extensive is the field of enzymes and open new roads that will lead biology to extend the knowledge on life’s mechanisms on a molecular level.

Pasteur's Museum and Tomb

The Musée Pasteur (Pasteur museum [1]) is located in the South wing of the first building occupied by the Pasteur Institute, which was inaugurated on November 14, 1888. Established in 1936, this museum houses the memory of Louis Pasteur's life and work in the vast apartment where he lived during the last seven years of his life, from 1888 to 1895. This museum also includes the collection of scientific objects illustrating the scientist's work, as well as the Byzantine funeral chapel where Pasteur is buried.

Institut Pasteur today

Today, the Institut Pasteur is one of the world's leading research centers; it houses 100 research units and close to 2,700 people, including 500 permanent scientists and another 600 scientists visiting from 70 countries annually. The Institut Pasteur is also a global network of 24 foreign institutes devoted to medical problems in developing countries; a graduate study center and an epidemiological screening unit.

The international network is present in the following cities and countries:

  • Algiers, Algeria
  • Bangui, Central African Republic
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • São Paulo, Brazil
  • Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Lille, France
  • Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
  • Cayenne, French Guyana
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang and Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Tehran, Iran: (Pasteur Institute of Iran)
  • Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
  • Tananarive, Madagascar
  • Casablanca, Morocco
  • Nouméa, New Caledonia
  • St Petersburg, Russia
  • Tunis, Tunisia
  • Athens, Greece
  • Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Niamey, Niger
  • Yaoundé, Cameroon
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Shanghai, China (Institut Pasteur in Shanghai)
  • Pasteur Foundation New York, USA
  • Canadian Pasteur Foundation, Montreal, Canada
  • Hong Kong University - Pasteur Research Centre Hong Kong, China
  • Pasteur Institute of India, Coonoor, India

Research Centers

The Institut Pasteur web site currently shows 10 major research departments in 2008. These are:

  • Cell Biology and Infection,
  • Developmental Biology,
  • Genomes and Genetics,
  • Immunology,
  • Infection and Epidemiology,
  • Microbiology,
  • Neuroscience,
  • Parasitology and Mycology,
  • Structural Biology and Chemistry,
  • Virology

There are also non-research departments devoted to records and archives maintenance, maintenance of historical micro-organism cultures, publications and the library.

In addition to the isolation of HIV-1 and HIV-2, in the recent past researchers at the Pasteur Institute have developed a test for the early detection of colon cancer, produced a genetically engineered vaccine against hepatitis B and a rapid diagnostic test for the detection of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium which is implicated in the formation of stomach ulcers. Other research in progress includes the study of cancer and specifically the investigation of the role of oncogenes, the identification of tumor markers for diagnostic tests and the development of new treatments. One area of particular interest is the study of human papilloma viruses (HPV) and their role in cervical cancers. Researchers are currently focusing on the development of various vaccines against many diseases including AIDS, malaria, dengue fever and the Shigella bacterium.

Currently, an extensive line of research aims at determining the complete genome sequences of several organisms of medical importance, in the hope of finding new therapeutic approaches. The Institute has contributed to genome-sequencing projects of the common yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae, an organism which was so important for Louis Pasteur's history), completed in 1996, Bacillus subtilis completed in 1997, Mycobacterium tuberculosis completed in 1998.

Teaching Center

Since its founding, the Institute Pasteur has brought together scientists from many different disciplines for postgraduate study. Today, approximately 300 graduate students and 500 postdoctoral trainees from close to 40 different countries participate in postgraduate study programs at the Institute. They include pharmacists and veterinarians, as well as doctors, chemists and other scientists.

Epidemiological Reference Center

Strains of bacteria and viruses from many different countries are sent to the Institute's reference center for identification. In addition to maintaining this vital epidemiological resource, the Institute serves as advisor to the French government and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations. Pasteur scientists also help to monitor epidemics and control outbreaks of infectious diseases throughout the world. These activities have created a close collaboration between the Institute and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccines and Diagnostic Products

Production and marketing of diagnostic tests developed in the Institute laboratories are the responsibility of Sanofi Diagnostics Pasteur, a subsidiary of the French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi, while production and marketing of vaccines are the responsibility of Pasteur Mérieux, Sérums et Vaccins.

Structure and Support

As a private, non-profit organization, the Institut Pasteur is governed by an independent Board of Directors, currently chaired by François Ailleret. The Director General of the Pasteur Institute is Professeur Christian Bréchot.

By drawing financial support from many different sources, the Institute protects its autonomy and guarantees the independence of its scientists. The Institute's funding includes French government subsidies, consulting fees, licensing royalties, contract revenue and private contributions.

In popular culture

The book The Paris Option by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds begins with four men blowing up the Pasteur institute, as a cover-up for stealing a molecular computer project, being done there.

The Pasteur Institute in Paris features prominently in the terrorist-fiction eBook, The Madness Analog, as the location for clandestine experiments in bio-chemical weaponry.




  • Gascar, Pierre. La Strada di Pasteur, Jaca Book, Milano 1991. ISBN 88-16-40291-1.
  • Hage, Jerald and Jonathon Mote. "Transformational Organizations and a Burst of Scientific Breakthroughs," Social Science History (2010) 34#1 pp 13–46. online
  • Reynolds, Moira Davison. How Pasteur Changed History: The Story of Louis Pasteur and the Pasteur Institute (1994)
  • Seidel, Atherton. "Chemical research at the Pasteur Institute," Journal of Chemical Education, (1926) 3#11, p 1217+ DOI: 10.1021/ed003p1217
  • Weindling, Paul. "Scientific elites and laboratory organization in fin de siècle Paris and Berlin: The Pasteur Institute and Robert Koch’s Institute for Infectious Diseases compared," in Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams, eds. The Laboratory Revolution in Medicine (Cambridge University Press, 1992) pp: 170–88.

External links


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