Prof. Philippe Sansonetti
Professor at the Institut Pasteur
Director of the Molecular Microbial Pathogenesis Unit, INSERM Unit 1202, Institut Pasteur.
How are Cochin and Pasteur became partners in research on vaccines ?
Concerted action between Cochin and Pasteur began in 1998 in the field of infectious diseases. With Jean-Paul Lévy, who is closely interested in HIV, we had the idea of this vaccinology center. At Pasteur, we were about to close the hospital and in order to develop research, we needed to keep this medical and translational activity. Today, this partnership is based on common projects. A vaccine project is not just about recruiting volunteers and immunizing them. Vaccinology is a set of reflections, discussions and evaluation of the possibilities available. These exchanges of information between Cochin and Pasteur on vaccination, in particular at the extreme ages of life, help to advance knowledge. Since 2010, I have secured the coordination of an important network called Stopenterics, funded by the European Union, which is part of a program for the prevention of neglected infectious diseases in developing countries. In this context, it is very important for us to rely on the extremely specialized skills of the CIC Cochin Pasteur team in clinical vaccine trials.
What is the role of public research in this area?
This CIC-Cochin-Pasteur is the only academic center in France dedicated to vaccines and it seems very important to me that this structure be able to develop. We cannot leave all the responsibility for vaccine research to the industrial sector, which invests little in the field of so-called “neglected” diseases because of its low profitability. It is therefore the duty of academic actors to seize it. However, industrial partners can reinvest in it at a more advanced stage when proof of concept has been provided. To do this, academic vaccine research must develop new funding paradigms including in particular the European Union, this is the model of STOPENTERICS, as well as large foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the USA, or the Wellcome trust. UK. In France, we need this Cochin-Pasteur vaccinology center located at Cochin Hospital to give visibility and credibility to our actions and effectively launch these very essential developments and research.
How to develop these activities and for what purpose?
The Cochin Pasteur association gives good visibility to this center which needs a spotlight, a success story that is likely to happen if given the means. However, vaccine tolerance trials (phase 1) do not represent the ideal stage to demonstrate overall that a vaccine works. We must indeed go and check the effectiveness on the ground. So, for the future, should this center be confined to upstream vaccinology? I’m not sure of it. At some point, it will be necessary to decide – and the decision is political and financial – to project ourselves into the field with the means to ensure a real public health sector offering the capacity for a vaccine to reach the final proof of the disease. concept. We need resources, programs, projects and visibility: which is far from easy to bring together in the constrained economic context of hospitals. We must plan to change scale and to allow this, the AP-HP and the Institut Pasteur must realize the potential of this Center and support it in its development at the highest level.
What are the prospects for this unique center in France?
There is a real revival of vaccinology in France and there is growing interest at the academic level for human immunology. This is an opportunity to be seized. Vaccines are also being called into question, it is a societal development that we can deplore, but it is a fact. They need to be taken into account and improved to get closer to zero risk in order to improve acceptability. The Center has a role to play by placing the clinical trial at the center of society, by showing the rigor with which trials are conducted, by ensuring real vaccine education among the population. We must also follow the trend towards diversification and personalization of the vaccines of the future. The Centre’s choices towards vaccination at extreme ages and in immunocompromised people are typical of this trend and should be encouraged. The future of vaccines must be reasoned on an international basis, in particular European as far as we are concerned. The availability of high-level study centers such as the Cochin-Pasteur Center is an asset in convincing the European Commission and our governments to invest in vaccines, which remain the most profitable tool in public health. Other centers exist, notably in the United Kingdom. They are very efficient, but the quality of the services of the Cochin-Pasteur Center is nothing to be ashamed of. The stability of its medical and technical personnel, the quality of the environment offered by the Cochin Hospital and the Institut Pasteur represent an asset that we appreciated when in 2008 we carried out a vaccine trial involving the Cochin-Pasteur Center. and a London Center.
We therefore have a Center of very high added value, which allows me to affirm today that this Cochin-Pasteur Vaccinology Center brings together a unique resource and a wealth for France and Europe.