As part of her trip to France for the fourth Paris Peace Forum – which includes three round tables on the challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic –, Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, visited the Institut Pasteur on November 9, 2021, to meet French and American scientists working on COVID-19 and to further scientific relationships between France and US.
Accompanied by Stewart Cole, President of the Institut Pasteur, and Christophe d’Enfert, Scientific Director, Kamala Harris was able to speak to the teams who have invested considerable time and energy in advancing research and finding new ways of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, including James di Santo, Principal Investigator at the Centre for Immunology & Infection, who is conducting research on the immunology of SARS-CoV-2 infection and testing vaccine candidates in animal models with Hélène Strick-Marchand.
She also met with Olivier Schwartz and Nathalie Aulner, who are using imaging to investigate SARS-CoV-2 and its variants and to evaluate therapeutic tools (monoclonal antibodies) and Jean-Baptiste Masson, who is exploring the potential of new imaging technologies for facilitating and improving the diagnosis of some forms of cancer.
She saluted the unprecedented response of the Institut Pasteur's scientific community in tackling the COVID-19 epidemic over the past two years. The visit was also a tribute to her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a renowned scientist who worked with French researchers in the 1980s, including a team from the Institut Pasteur.
Kamala Harris' trip to France is an opportunity to reiterate the vital role played by international scientific cooperation, on a scale never seen before in the history of humanity, in paving the way for meaningful responses to the COVID-19 epidemic. As a key stakeholder in this effort, the Institut Pasteur's scientific community in Paris and within the Pasteur Network, working in collaboration with fellow scientists – including several US teams and universities –, has made a significant contribution, especially in terms of our understanding of the infection, diagnosis, therapeutic avenues and the vaccination rollout in Europe.
The links between Louis Pasteur, the institute that bears his name and the United States go back a very long way. In 1886, Louis Pasteur treated American children thought to have contracted rabies and was instrumental in setting up local centers to treat rabies patients in the United States. The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was founded in 1901 in New York on the model of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, established in 1888.
Over the ensuing decades, further links continued to be fostered between the Institut Pasteur and the United States. In the early 1960s, the research visits of François Jacob to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and François Gros to Harvard University led to the discovery of mRNA.
Some of the Institut Pasteur current scientists are working on projects involving collaboration with US-based teams, supported by the NIH or DARPA, in a variety of fields, including vector-borne diseases, phage therapy and the PICREID project (Pasteur International Center for Research on Emerging Infectious Diseases).